How Exercise Affects your Brain in Sobriety

We all know that exercise is good, mm’kay? For a lot of us who are just getting sober, the thought of exercising can seem like a slow form of torture. Many of us were people who enjoyed nothing more than getting wasted and sitting on the couch for hours.

On the other hand, there are some of us who have done some pretty serious damage to our bodies, and exercising is actually a potentially dangerous activity for us to try out right away.

Then there is the other group, who is ready to make up all of that lost time and wants to start working out every single morning and night and it becomes a whole new addiction and bladdy blah.

Regardless of your length of time sober or your physical stature, there is no question that any form of exercise can vastly improve your sobriety.

Now I don’t mean hit the gym and try to immediately bench press your body weight, but in those first few weeks or months, just getting up and going for a walk, a swim, or a hike is essential to really starting to feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The Physical Aspect

This obviously goes without saying, but there are about as many physical benefits of exercise as there are ways of doing it. Swimmers, runners, and hikers have high super strong lung capacity. Weightlifters and crossfitters have extreme strength. Surfers and skiers have agility, and even golfers have extreme focus and coordination.

Not to mention all of the benefits that happen inside the cellular structures of the body. Frequent exercise has been scientifically proven to help:

  • Reduce the risk of Cardiovascular Disease
  • Reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes
  • Reduce the risk of some forms of cancers
  • Dramatically improve mood and mental functioning
  • Control weight and promote weight loss
  • Strengthen muscles and bones

The list goes on and on, but for those of us who are just kicking a nasty habit, it can be especially helpful. Frequent exercise, in any form, gets the blood pumping and our endorphins flowing. For people who suffer from depression and anxiety, it can be an easy way to literally change your mood without the help of a chemical.

Not to mention, getting regular physical activity can help improve sleep patterns, ward off illness, boosts self-confidence, helps the body detox itself, and also allows our bodies and minds to work together.

women exercising

The Mental Aspect

There is a whole lot of evidence out there that proves that regular exercise in sobriety can do wonders for the brain and for stabilizing and regulating moods and thought patterns.

One of the most common reasons for relapse is stress. It can often be caused by trying to manage a whole new schedule with work, house duties, friends, your sponsor, meetings, and then trying to just have free time or trying to fill free time.

Adding some form of exercise into the mix will pretty much guarantee that at some point in your day, you are not only getting physically healthy, but you are meditating as well.

Exercising in sobriety, whether it be in the gym, on the court, or walking down a nice street, tends to take up most of the space in your mind if you are doing it right! Since meditation is defined as focused thought, any physical activity that forces you to concentrate, and get your mind and body in line together, can be considered meditation! So bam, two birds, one stone.

Now when we factor in the exercise with a healthy diet, we really get the ball rolling. In fact, some people who reported struggling with a co-occurring addiction and mental illness discovered that when they started eating a well-rounded diet and engaging in frequent exercise, that they were more able to over time, remove a number of their prescription medications from their routine (with a doctor’s approval, of course!). For example, sleep patterns improve, mood swings can begin to level out, and anxiety can decrease when processed sugars and fats are removed and the person engages in frequent physical activity.

The Emotional Side

As we have somewhat touched on so far, working out can seriously benefit a person’s moods. This is because physical activity releases endorphins. Endorphins interact with the receptors in the brain that are in charge of pain, and endorphin release also trigger a positive feeling in the body (similar to that of morphine! But then again, so does cheese).

Nevertheless, it has been proven that endorphins make you feel good, and over time, you start to think more positively as well.

Now I am not saying that a healthy diet and exercise will keep you healthy, or that it will remove the rest of the problems from your life, but it sure does help to soften the edges sometimes!

Let’s be honest, getting sober isn’t always going to be easy. However, as we move forward in our journey, we get to add on whatever tools we want to help make the process smoother. Exercise is a good one to choose because WE get to choose whatever form of movement suits us best.

If you are a person that thinks of exercise as a chore, maybe you haven’t found the type that works for you! Don’t like the gym? What about walking on the beach? Don’t like the sand? What about hiking in the woods, or rock climbing, or kayaking? What about dance classes, or yoga, or heck, synchronized swimming! Basketball, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, frisbee, or flashlight tag!

The coolest part about exercise is that you can do it alone, or you can do it with friends. Hint, hint, a great way to find sober supports!

Seeking Treatment For Alcoholism or Addiction

If you find that you cannot stop using drugs or alcohol even though you would like to, then you may be suffering from an addiction. Addiction is an actual, recognizable disease and as such, you’re inability to stop on your own should not be a cause for shame or guilt. There are millions of people every year who need to seek help for addiction and alcoholism, and many have made it through their struggles to a life of recovery. So if you think you need help, then call the professionals at Dream Center for Recovery today at 1-877-978-3148. Our trained staff is standing by to take your call and discuss your drug and alcohol treatment options.