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4 Brainy Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery


Woman jogging in the park and experiencing the benefits of exercise in recovery
Exercise benefits for recovering addicts include less stress, restored brain balance, better self-esteem and more.

Addiction physically changes the reward center of the brain, causing it to demand more of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. Addiction also changes the brain’s communication patterns, structure, functioning and natural balance. This is why the benefits of exercise in addiction recovery are so important. In this post, you’ll learn how exercise boosts your brain, and what you need to do to start experiencing these benefits for yourself. Let’s get scrolling!

Benefits of Exercise in Recovery

Exercise, along with diet, can help repair the damage addiction causes to our bodies and minds. How does exercise help during addiction recovery?

  • Exercise relieves stress
  • Exercise fights depression and anxiety
  • Exercise restores brain chemistry
  • Exercise boosts self esteem

If all that sounds good to you, let’s take a closer look at what’s really going on and how you can unlock the benefits of exercise in recovery.

How Exercise Helps with Stress

Stress is unavoidable; it’s just a part of daily life. How you react and respond to stress, however, is completely up to you. Regular exercise can actually help us prepare for the normal, everyday stressors that come with being human. And, if you start to feel overwhelmed, a few minutes of intense physical activity is a healthy way to burn off some steam.

Try This: Next time you’re feeling stressed out, get your heart rate up and your endorphins flowing with some high-energy activity. Running, swimming, dancing, cycling… heck, you could even dust off those old rollerblades you haven’t touched since rollerblading was cool. Rollerblading was cool, right? Never mind.

How Exercise Fights Depression & Anxiety

Exercising doesn’t just boost your heart rate, it also boosts your mood. Believe it or not, some research suggests that incorporating exercise into your routine can help treat clinical depression nearly as well as prescription medication.

Try This: Yoga is great for improving your flexibility, strength and balance. It’s also an excellent way to reinforce the practice of mindfulness, which helps you disrupt those negative, repetitive thoughts. Hear that? That’s the sound of you becoming one with the universe.

How Exercise Restores Your Brain Chemistry

3D model representing the effects of addiction on the brain
Drug addiction changes how the brain responds to dopamine.

Drug or alcohol addiction messes with your ability to feel pleasure, satisfaction and happiness without relying on harmful substances. Regular exercise promotes natural levels of endorphins and, over time, retrains your body to regulate mood and brain chemistry in a natural way.

Try This: Make exercise part of your routine. Sign up for a gym membership, join a cycling club or exercise with a buddy who will hold you accountable. Whatever you do, however you do it just… do it. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

How Exercise Boosts Self Esteem

As your body starts to feel healthier and your brain begins to recalibrate itself, you’ll probably notice a feeling of accomplishment and pride. This is a direct result of your hard work and dedication! The more goals you set for yourself and the more of them you achieve, the higher your self-confidence will rise.

Try This: Take little steps. Lots of ‘em. Look, we all want to be the next Chuck Norris, but it doesn’t happen overnight… unless, of course, you’re Chuck Norris. That guy can do anything. But for the rest of us mortals, we need to set realistic, attainable goals. Setting the bar too high, especially early on, can be a recipe for failure.

Make Exercise Part of Your Ongoing Addiction Recovery Plan

Drug addiction rehab and recovery isn’t just about quitting drugs and alcohol. It’s about changing your whole lifestyle – from the way you cope with your emotions to the way you take care of your body. This is why our addiction treatment programs address the person as a whole, including things like diet, exercise, relationships, co-occurring conditions and much more. If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, there’s hope at The Raleigh House.

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