Physical fitness plays a very important role in the recovery process for individuals with a substance abuse disorder (SAD). A study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that incorporating exercise into addiction treatment was strongly associated with reduced cravings and improvements in mood. Another study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that exercise was an effective treatment for anxiety and depression in individuals with SAD.
Exercise effectively reduced withdrawal symptoms in patients undergoing opioid detoxification, according to a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. Another study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that regular exercise reduced withdrawal symptoms in those undergoing detox from alcohol.
Physical fitness also plays a crucial role in better mental health overall. Multiple sources of data show that physical fitness has significant benefits for mental health, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, improving cognitive function and memory, and boosting self-esteem.
One type of physical fitness that has been strongly associated with better mental health is aerobic exercise. A review of 49 studies published in the journal Sports Medicine found that aerobic exercise (running, cycling, swimming, etc) was associated with significant improvements in symptoms of depression and anxiety. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that regular aerobic exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory and learning.
When we exercise, our body releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals that reduce nervousness and promote feelings of well-being. Exercise can also help lower the levels of cortisol in our system; cortisol is a stress hormone linked to anxiety.
Strength training is another type of physical fitness that can have mental health benefits. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that resistance training was associated with reduced symptoms of anxiety in adults. Strength training was also strongly associated with improved self-esteem in adolescents, according to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
Yoga and mindfulness practices have also been shown to have significant mental health benefits too. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that practicing yoga was highly correlated with improvements in overall quality of life. Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that mindfulness meditation can reduce symptoms of neurosis and improve cognitive function.