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Exercising for Your Mood

Content by: Sarah Bigbee, RD

How can exercise help the addiction process, and what can exercise do to promote positive mental health? Read below and review the slide show to find out!

Exercising for Your Mood


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When it comes to addiction treatment and recovery, exercise is a key component to managing some of the symptoms that arise. Anxiety, mood swings, and feelings of being overwhelmed are all part of the recovery process. A variety of different exercises can be used to alleviate these. Below we will discuss how exercise can help the addiction process, different types of exercises to suggest to clients and what these exercises do to promote positive mental health.

1️⃣ How can Exercise help?

Exercise is known to increase the blood flow to the brain. More blood flowing to the brain decreases oxidative stress by pumping fresh, oxygenated blood to the brain which decreases inflammation in the brain. An inflamed brain is not a healthy brain! Long standing inflammation is linked to multiple chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and many more. Adding exercise is a simple way to decrease inflammation and live a healthier life.

With this burst of oxygenated blood also comes the release of endorphins, which are the feel good chemicals. This is especially important with addictions, because many addictions also trigger the release of these chemicals. When recovering from addiction, it is important to find a healthy way to produce and release endorphins to help counteract some of the negative physical and mental feelings that come up in recovery and treatment.

🔅Dealing with stress can be especially challenging when an addiction was the previous way stress was managed!

🔅Exercise decreases the stress hormones in the body and can be a helpful coping mechanism to stressful situations. Two stress hormones that are often reduced with exercise are cortisol and adrenaline.

🔅Cortisol is especially important! Cortisol triggers the release of stored glucose from the liver and, in turn, increases blood sugar. By exercising, we can keep these hormone levels within a healthy range and promote healthy blood sugar levels. It is important to note that cortisol is extremely important in our bodies response to manage stress, and exercise can help us keep this hormone balanced so it can function appropriately.

2️⃣ What exercises should we do, how much, and why?

Moderate aerobic exercise gets the heart pumping, but doesn’t cause exhaustion. This level of exercise appears to help with decreasing oxidative stress the most. Moderate exercise can occur in many forms..

🔅 Walking, jogging, swimming, biking, hiking, and many other activities qualify as moderate exercise.

🔅 Aiming for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week will help keep the body and mind in shape.

🔅 Current evidence shows that meditative exercises improve memory, and the ability to deal with stressful situations. Yoga is especially beneficial for promoting relaxation and mindfulness, which both allow for better handling of stressful events. Adding a variety of different exercises will keep the brain and body feeling their best.

NOTE: Recent studies have found that there are some added benefits by getting physical outside. Outdoor activity is shown to increase a sense of relaxation in participants, it also improves overall mood and the sense of calm that comes post exercise.

3️⃣ What is the Takeaway?

🔅 Get 150 minutes of exercise spread throughout the week.
🔅 Vary your exercise to include aerobic and meditative practices.
🔅 Try to get outside for exercise, whenever possible.

Quick Tips:

🚶🏽 Walk for at least 30min 5x/week.
🧘🏽 If you are feeling emotionally reactive try gentle yoga/stretching techniques.
🏌🏽‍♀️ Add in outdoor exercise whenever possible.
🚴🏼 Find an exercise that brings you joy!

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