4 Science-Backed Ways Exercise Boosts Mental Health

We’ve all been especially challenged lately, whether it’s from the pandemic and its aftereffects, social unrest, a job loss or other economic hurdles. As a sign of the times, drug and alcohol abuse has markedly risen. There is hope and it’s found in exercise, a fact that is based on evidence from a number of studies and research papers.

Two people riding their bikes on a path

Photo credit: Pexels

Guest Post by Jason Lewis of StrongWell.org

The health and wellness experts at Studio B present these four science-backed ways exercise can help you get back on track to your old self or even a new, improved self. 

1. Physical exercise can ease symptoms of depression.

Studies have shown that people who have depression or other mental illnesses are more likely to also have problems with substance use and addiction. Finding a treatment option that can treat both depression and addiction is an important part of many recovery programs, and exercise is an excellent way to treat both at the same time. In fact, the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry discussed results from 21 studies, which showed that running could reduce the symptoms and feelings of depression during addiction recovery. Maybe it’s time to hit the pavement. 

Be sure to equip yourself with quality running shoes, a good investment that doesn’t need to break the bank thanks to online coupons and promo codes like those found at Nike.com. The worst thing that can happen if you’re running, jogging or walking in poor-quality shoes is injury to your feet, legs or back, preventing you from following through with a rigorous exercise regimen. Other conditions that may develop by not wearing quality shoes are corns, bunions and plantar fasciitis, all painful enough to make exercise a burden.

2. Exercise can help you grow brain cells.

The hippocampus is a part of the brain that plays a critical role in memory and regulates emotion. Addiction can negatively impact different parts of the brain, and the hippocampus is especially vulnerable to substance abuse. 

What’s more, research has shown that all those burpees and squats could help your brain grow new brain cells. This can help you gain confidence as you move forward in improving your mental health. Exercise is an activity where you can see results instantly and gain motivation to make it a habit.

3. Exercise can reduce cravings.

The relationship between mood and craving can influence relapse and prevent long-term recovery. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that getting out and exercising, even for 10-30 minutes, can reduce cravings and substantially improve mood. You can get gains in more ways than one. Remember that going outside and working out, even for a short time, can help you weather the storm and achieve the long-term goals you want.

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4. Results are seen in improved aerobic power.

Be aware that, if you are on the road to recovering from substance abuse, past addiction may have weakened the heart. In fact, there is a much higher risk of heart disease and premature death when substance use weakens the heart and it can’t pump blood as efficiently. So take it easy when first starting your exercise regimen.

One clinical study evaluated the effects of high-intensity interval training for individuals recovering from substance abuse, and it showed that patients who exercised vigorously were able to increase the volume of blood that their heart pumped, improve their maximal cardiac power and reduce their risk of mortality. This is a fantastic reason to make sure physical fitness is an important long-term part of not only improving your mental health but also your overall recovery routine.

Including physical fitness in your plan to improve your overall health can help grow new brain cells, reduce stress and renew self-confidence. The connection between mental and physical health cannot be overstated. This includes all kinds of exercise, so you won’t need to be a super athlete to exercise safely and efficiently. While each person’s path has its own twists and turns, you’ll find unique self-confidence and opportunities as you persevere.

Studio B is an integrative healthcare studio in Durango, Colo., specializing in individualized treatment and coaching for optimizing your health. To experience a health clinic that feels like a health club, contact us today! (970) 422-1761