How Physical Exercise Improves Mental Health

Home | How Physical Exercise Improves Mental Health

More than half of everyone who enters treatment for a substance abuse disorder (SUD) relapses within just twelve months. Relapse is a common occurrence, and it doesn’t make or break the possibility of successful long-term recovery. If you feel like you’re heading toward relapse, consider one sobriety tool that can offer big-time support: exercise. New research points toward exercise as an effective relapse prevention technique, especially in younger people who struggle with SUD.

At St. Gregory Recovery Center, we invite all of our residents to take full advantage of our health and wellness program. After providing each client with a full medical and fitness screening, we help them create a comprehensive fitness plan that hits on their interests and abilities. Within this personalized plan, our clients can experiment with recreational sports and physical activities that speak to them most, engaging mind, body, and spirit in ways that support their recovery and mental health

Which Exercises Are Best For Mental Health?

Finding the activity that holds your interest most is a great starting place and an excellent positive reinforcer for sobriety. The best exercises for your mental health depend entirely on what you enjoy doing! It’s also important to remember that while exercise is a powerful tool for increasing your quality of life and life expectancy, it’s not the only thing you need to maintain sobriety. A holistic approach–with attention placed on nutrition, exercise, therapy, and socializing–is the most effective for relapse prevention

What Are The Benefits of Regular Exercise in Recovery?

The benefits of daily exercise go far beyond the physical. In the recovery context, physical activity greatly mitigates the anxiety, depression, or severe stress symptoms that can accompany the detox process and initial withdrawal from substances. Once your body is more stable, exercise also works to counter the intense cravings that you might experience in the beginning of your treatment and throughout your sobriety. Lastly, exercise has the power to dictate how well you respond to triggers by providing you with a regular outlet for stress, tough emotions, and toxic situations. Keep reading to dig into the spiritual, mental, and lesser-known advantages of adopting an exercise habit in recovery.

Self-Esteem and Exercise

Sports and physical activities can naturally create goals for us. Running a bit further during each jog, lifting a bit more weight with each training session, scoring a goal, losing some weight, and gaining some strength over time puts your resilience and discipline on full display. Meeting low-stakes exercise goals can do wonders for your self-esteem, awakening your sense of competence and overall bodily health. 

The Cognitive Benefits of Exercise

The research says it all: exercising makes you smarter! Well–it does if you consider increasing neuroplasticity as a form of intelligence. At St. Gregory, we certainly see it as such, and you’ll learn all about it in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Regular exercise allows you to do the following on a cognitive level:

  • Increase your attention span
  • Augment your mental processing speed
  • Stimulate and strengthen your short-term memory
  • Increase your speed in switching from one task to another

Social Aspects of Fitness

Not every sport that we enjoy doing has a social aspect, but most do, either directly or indirectly. Tight-knit sports communities are born out of the shared love of the sport and the bonding that comes with participation. Social sports in recovery have the same type of power. They can provide a ready-made community and support network. This community can motivate you and hold you accountable to your goals. 

A Little Sweat Helps You Sleep

Daily exercise does wonders for regulating your sleep schedule as well as allowing you to sleep more soundly. Proper sleep hygiene is essential for your body to recover from an SUD and to manage stress well. Protecting you from infections, strengthening immune function, and boosting your mood are also vital benefits of a good night’s sleep. 

Support Your Sobriety With Exercise in Bayard and Des Moines

We can’t wait to help you begin your fitness journey when you contact us at either of our two locations in Iowa. Both our inpatient and outpatient facilities can guide you toward health and wellness resources as you embark on your addiction recovery journey. In the meantime, we encourage you to read about our relapse prevention program–a concentrated effort to help you stay grounded in sobriety. 

Our graduates tell their stories…

When first arriving at St. Gregory I had mixed feelings about the health and wellness workouts. I came in at 136 lbs and didn’t think it was possible to reach...
- Chris
The good life is not merely a life free from addictions, physical and/or psychological—addictions that usually are the outward manifestations of deeper problems—but a life lived in harmonious balance, free...
- Matt
I came to St. Gregory’s at my all-time worst—physically, emotionally, and mentally. Having gone through a bad rehab experience once before, I had been very reluctant in succumbing to that...
- CJ
No matter where I start my thought process when reflecting upon my time before, during and after St. Gregory’s, I always seem to end up in the same place in...
- Kaele

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