Unfortunately, we often get wrapped up in the concept of exercise as something to do to lose weight or for vanity purposes. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to shed pounds or look your best, we also have to see that the importance of Exercise is truly the ultimate form of self-care.
Exercise is so much more than weight loss or calories. When we commit to regularly moving our bodies, we’re giving ourselves a gift that extends far beyond looking fit in whatever way we enjoy and that works for us.
Moving and getting regular physical activity means you’re prioritizing and valuing yourself and your well-being. It’s excellent for your physical and mental health, and we encourage you to find a routine that feels right to you.
The way you exercise doesn’t have to be what anyone tells you is right. Listen to your mind and your body, and find things that you genuinely enjoy, even if they push you outside your comfort zone or are challenging.
The Physical Benefits of Exercise
There are, of course, physical benefits of regular exercise, including:
- You can maintain a healthy weight. When you exercise, you burn calories, which can help you maintain your current weight or lose weight. Any amount of activity is better than none, and that’s one of the biggest things to remember.
- Regular exercise combats or reduces the risk of developing the most common chronic conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. When you exercise regularly, it can help manage or prevent stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, many types of cancer, and arthritis.
- Exercise helps improve your cognitive function.
- When you get exercise, it helps lower your risk of death from all causes.
- If you’re low on energy, try moving your body a bit and see how you feel. Movement helps boost your physical strength and endurance. It also brings nutrients and oxygen to your tissues and promotes the more efficient functioning of your cardiovascular system.
- Are you struggling to sleep at night? Physical activity can help you fall asleep faster, get better quality sleep and enjoy a deeper sleep.
- There are sexual benefits of exercise. When you work out or move your body, it can improve your confidence and energy levels, benefiting your sex life.
- You can make it a social activity to exercise by taking a group class or finding someone to walk with.
Your ideal goal should be to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. If you can’t do this right away and you’re new to exercising, that’s okay. Again, do what you can, and something is always better than nothing.
Strength training can also be an important part of staying mentally and physically strong and healthy when you’re ready.
The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise
We encourage you to exercise for your mental health as much if not more than your physical health, although the two do work together. Exercise can help you if you’re in substance abuse recovery, and it can also help you deal with the symptoms of anxiety, stress, depression, and more.
When you exercise regularly, you’ll feel more positive about yourself in general and improve your well-being.
Exercise and Depression
Studies indicate exercising can help with mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. For example, a study conducted at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found running five minutes a day or walking for an hour lowers the risk of major depression by 26%.
If you receive treatment for depression, adding an exercise schedule to your routine can help you prevent a relapse.
When you’re exercising, it’s creating powerful effects in your brain. Exercise promotes neural growth, reduces inflammation, and develops activity patterns promoting a sense of well-being and calm.
Endorphins release into your brain, making you feel generally good. You can also break negative thought patterns by distracting yourself with exercise.
A natural, effective anti-anxiety treatment exercise helps relieve the effects of stress and tension. Again, since your body is releasing endorphins, it makes you feel good. You can also get out of your head when you exercise, which can be vital for dealing with anxiety.
When you exercise, try and integrate elements of mindfulness into it too. For example, if you walk outside, notice the things you hear and see around you.
Trauma and PTSD
As you exercise, it helps alleviate the being “stuck” feeling you may have, common with a history of trauma or PTSD. You can get unstuck so that you can then begin to move forward and have reduced PTSD symptoms.
As you exercise during your early days of addiction recovery, it can activate your reward pathway in a natural, healthy way. That reward pathway changes with substance abuse, but exercising can help it re-learn how to function without drugs or alcohol. Since exercise triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin, you’ll feel better.
Some of the specific ways exercise can help in addiction recovery include:
- Physical activity may help with symptoms of withdrawal like depression, anxiety, and stress. These are withdrawal symptoms that can otherwise contribute to relapse.
- Exercise can help distract you from cravings.
- You can replace your triggers with an exercise routine.
- It’s prevalent, especially in the early days of detox and recovery, to have sleep problems. Exercise can help you get more high-quality rest.
- Shame or self-doubt can be part of the aftermath of addiction, but exercising can help raise your self-esteem and also help you have more belief in yourself and your abilities.
Other Benefits of Exercise For Your Mental Health
Other benefits you can experience when you exercise include:
- Your memory and thinking will be sharper and clearer since it stimulates new brain cells.
- You’re investing in yourself when you’re exercising, which can help you feel powerful.
- Resilience is something we talk about a lot in addiction treatment. Exercise is a great way to build on your resilience skills and prepare you to face mental challenges in your life in a healthy, productive way.
Commit to Self-Care
We encourage you to commit to caring for yourself. Let go of what might hold you back from exercising, such as guilt that you’re not dedicating that time to other things or intimidation. The first step is the hardest, but you’re already showing yourself that you are worth the time and the commitment to get more active once you do that. For help living a healthy life after drugs and alcohol, call 866-600-7709 and let the team at Anchored Tides Recovery be part of your support squad!