When you’re young, you don’t think about the impact of exercise. Playing comes naturally to children. Running, climbing, jumping, and chasing one another all seem to happen without a second thought the moment they’re at the park. While children don’t consider the effects of physical activity, scientists and researchers are all very interested.
The effects of exercise are vital for everyone, from young children to elderly adults. Physical activity has incredible benefits for both physical and mental health. It keeps people functional and agile as they age, boosts energy levels, and increases focus. The positive impact of exercise is undeniable no matter who you are.
There is one particular segment of the population that benefits more from exercise than the everyday individual, though. People at risk of substance abuse, or those in recovery from a substance problem, need the positive effects of exercise in their lives. Physical activity produces dozens of great benefits for anyone trying to stay alcohol- and drug-free.
Exercise is not only good for the body but it has fantastic effects on the brain as well. Physical activity is excellent for heart and lung health as well as various aspects of mental health. It heightens the production of mood-boosting chemicals, such as endorphins. Exercise also stimulates the reward pathway in the brain which encourages people to continue the habit.
Researchers also observe the positive effects on the brain during animal studies. They notice that exercise encourages the formation of new blood vessels in the brain and builds connections between brain cells. It also boosts the repair of neural tissue and creates new neurons in areas of the brain responsible for memory formation.
These observations support the connection between the improved mood and relief of mild depression that people feel when exercising regularly. It also reinforces the elevated mood and enhanced cognitive function in elderly individuals who exercise.
Animal studies also show that exercise improves stress tolerance through its action on hormones related to the nervous system. This particular observation is critical when considering the connections between exercise and substance use. Since drug use is often linked to stress avoidance, lowering stress through exercise is a healthy, natural alternative to substances.
The National Institute on Drug Addiction also notes the connections between exercise and teen drug use. Teenagers who participate in regular physical activity are more resistant to drug use and addiction. NIDA’s Monitoring the Future survey suggests that students in high school who exercise regularly are less likely to use marijuana or cigarettes compared to sedentary teens.
Though the connection may not be directly related, there’s still a relationship between exercise and teen drug use. Researchers recognize that individuals who exercise may be more likely to make healthy decisions in general and therefore are less likely to use drugs in the first place. Still, studies show the improved brain function that results from exercise.
Another reason exercise is helpful for avoiding substance use is it serves as an engaging activity. Early recovery is a time where finding new hobbies is crucial. Exercise is a great hobby to include as a way to fill newfound free time. It offers an enjoyable activity to participate in instead of turning to alcohol or drugs.
This is an important point to keep in mind when starting to implement exercise: it should be something that’s enjoyable. People assume that exercise refers to only the traditional approaches. But walking, jogging, swimming, and biking are not the only forms of activity that promote mental health. Team sports, outdoor adventures, martial arts, dance, and more are all fantastic alternatives.
Finding an enjoyable form of exercise is a crucial part of the process. People won’t want to stay active if they don’t have a good time doing it. Mixing up the approach to exercise is a great way to keep from getting bored. There’s no need to go for runs all the time; trying different things to stay moving is good, too.
The importance of physical activity in the prevention of substance abuse cannot be stressed enough. There are myriad benefits to exercise from mind to body to spirit. Anyone trying to overcome their struggle with alcohol or drug use will find the effects of exercise to be a welcome addition to their lives.