Physical activity triggers a biological cascade of occurrences that results in many physical and mental health benefits. Research suggests that exercise is an effective treatment for mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, and can serve as a fundamental component to one’s recovery from addiction. Studies show that individuals who engage in a fitness routine live happier and healthier lives. Furthermore, experts in the field of addiction recovery and mental health believe that fitness is critical to living an addiction-free lifestyle and improving mental health.
Exercise can serve as a natural high, and not only make you feel good, but be good for you. Fitness allows individuals to experience a natural high without being on a mind or mood altering illicit substance. Most people are aware that exercise can produce “feel good” chemicals in the brain called endorphins. What some don’t know is that exercise, especially low-intensity exercise sustained over time, helps nerve cells grow and make new connections, subsequently improving brain functioning and helping individuals to feel better.
Here are just a few of the benefits of engaging in a physical fitness routine on mental health and addiction recovery:
- Relives stress
- Helps manage anger and frustration
- Promotes restful sleep
- Improves cognitive functioning
- Fills up idle time
- Provides structure and discipline
- Expands social circle and support system
- Increases self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence
- Decreases anxiety and depression
Lastly, when it comes to being physically fit or physically unfit, being overweight and out of shape is correlated with low mood and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Furthermore, when individuals enter recovery from drugs and alcohol many turn to food as their next way to cope with their addiction. Unfortunately, weight gain is very common in early recovery, which can then lead to low mood and trigger a relapse. In other words, a person in recovery may overeat to fill their void (especially sugary foods which are just as addictive as drugs and alcohol), then they gain weight, then they feel bad about their body, and then they turn to drugs or alcohol as their way to cope. It is a horrible and vicious cycle. As such, following a nutrition plan and fitness plan are essential for individuals in recovery from addiction. Incorporating a fitness routine into one’s daily life will strengthen their recovery, and lead to living a happier and healthier life.