Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Healthy Life: Fitness In Recovery
There’s a reason it’s called “recovery.” Your addiction damaged every aspect of your life: your body, mind, and spirit have all felt the impact. Your overall health has been weakened as you struggled with your demons. But now you’ve made the commitment to overcome them, and build a new, sober life. One powerful tool in your arsenal is physical fitness. Studies show that regular exercise improves your mood and raises your self confidence, reducing depression and anxiety. It is effective at combating the symptoms of withdrawal and helping to prevent relapse.
Improvement For The Body:
Regular physical activity such as running, walking, climbing, or lifting weights is a net benefit to your overall physical health. Addiction feeds into our brain’s reward center, producing a rush of dopamine which gives us a high. But physical exertion can produce the same feeling naturally without the drawbacks that come with substance abuse and addiction. Exercise strengthens muscle and bone, improving the quality of your life as it extends it. While a physical fitness regimen is no substitute for a treatment program, it can help survivors of drug abuse to stay focused on their recovery, and can give them skills to build a better, healthier life.
Improvement For The Mind:
A good exercise program also has powerful effects on the brain. Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise aids in memory and concentration and promotes growth of the hippocampus (the area of the brain devoted to learning). By reducing stress and elevating mood, it contributes to better sleep and rest, which appears to improve general cognitive performance. Weight training improves balance and endurance, and can be as effective as medication in fighting cardiovascular disease. Mind-body exercises, such as yoga and tai chi, can help you to stay present in the moment, teaching mindfulness. These kinds of exercises improve the brain’s plasticity, increasing grey matter and triggering improvements to executive functioning. Like more strenuous forms of exercise, these also reduce cortisol levels, making the body better able to moderate stress levels.
Drug and alcohol abuse are frequently comorbid with mental illness. As sufferers attempt to self-medicate their symptoms, they can fall into unhealthy behavioral patterns leading to addiction. The powerful healing benefits of physical exercise can be especially helpful in fighting the depression, anxiety, and negative thinking patterns that are present in mental illnesses. Studies show exercise can be as effective at fighting depression as a mild antidepressant, producing a greater sense of well-being. It triggers a rise in endorphins, which are the body’s own natural pain relievers, and raises norepinephrine and serotonin levels, producing greater focus and clearer thinking. It can be as effective as Adderall and Ritalin in its improvements to concentration.
How Much Is Enough?
Even moderate levels of physical activity can produce results. Just 30 minutes a day of walking can lower blood pressure and improve mood and cognition. If time is limited, consider breaking this down into three 10-minute intervals a day. For increased effectiveness, try to get in some activity outdoors; fresh air and sunlight boost vitamin D production and immune response. Working out with a group can help to restore social skills and provide a support network to lean on during your recovery.
Incorporating physical fitness into your treatment plan will strengthen your body and mind, making you more resilient and less likely to relapse. It can provide a healthy diversion from your problems, and improves your sense of well-being and self-confidence.You will be stronger, healthier, and happier as a result, and build healthy habits that contribute to a successful, sober life.
This guest post is by Constance Ray