There is no doubt, that exercise and fitness are extremely beneficial for our health and happiness. When someone exercises, the body releases endorphins, which in turn, reduces stress, and elevates one’s mood.
Many who abuse drugs or alcohol neglect important components of daily health, wreaking havoc on both emotional and physical well being. It is important to repair the psychological and physical damage of chemical dependency as well as the damaged mind-body connection. Exercise in chemical dependency treatment serves many purposes, but there are some primary benefits one can get from exercise during substance abuse treatment and recovery.
The Exercise and Fitness blog category relates to all things health and fitness. At Granite Behavioral Health, our Recover Strong Program is a huge part of how we encourage individuals to overcome addiction. Therefore, health, fitness, and recovery are essential to the integrity of our treatment center. You can find plenty of resources related to fitness and health here.
Maintaining an active lifestyle and exercising is essential for overall health and well-being. This is especially true for those in recovery. This should come as no surprise to anyone reading this article. Why then, do so many people struggle to make time to exercise? Why is it so easy to skip the gym at the end of a long day? I will present you with three methods I have employed over the years to stay engaged with my fitness programs that will also help you to maintain a more active lifestyle.
Before exploring the three hacks for motivation, I want to dispell a myth about motivation so let’s examine what motivation is and what it isn’t. I define motivation as a temporary drive or ambition to accomplish a goal or task which is usually accompanied by a general sense of excitement about the goal. The myth I’d like to dispell is that motivation is an essential ingredient of accomplishment. In fact, motivation merely gets us moving toward a goal. It will not be sufficient to help us achieve it. Why is this you may be asking? The key word in the above definition is “temporary.” Feelings of motivation in a person most often last for no longer than 3-4 weeks. Therefore they cannot carry us to our fitness or any other goals. Motivation may get us to join a gym or sports league, but it doesn’t last long enough to adopt a change in lifestyle. How then are we to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves? Habit, fun, and connection. Read on to find out how these three words apply:
Habit: There are many great quotes about habit my favorite was written long ago by Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Success is not an action but a habit.” Our habits unconscious or otherwise form the very foundation of the life we end up experiencing. All animals on this planet by their nature seek to expend the least energy possible to get the greatest reward. This fact makes it easier to maintain bad habits than to replace them with good ones. In fact, if we do not consciously choose to adopt the habits that move us closer to our goals, we will have unconsciously accepted the habits which don’t. The first step in forming the habit of having an active lifestyle is to choose to move in that direction consciously. Next, we need to create one or more SMART goals. That is goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Too often we approach fitness with the mindset of wanting to “get in shape,” “lose a few pounds,” or to “get stronger.” While these are all reasonable ambitions they are not specific, measurable, or time-bound and therefore they are not achievable. They are doomed from the start. Instead, we want to be very specific in our vision for example; I will lose 15 pounds by September 23, or I will run a 4:00 marathon in the marathon in October. Assuming these goals are achievable in the time allotted they are good specific goals. When setting goals, we make an inner commitment to ourselves that we will see that part of the journey through. If you are just starting out on your journey to fitness, I suggest setting goals with a 60-90 day time horizon. Most studies have found that it takes between 45-60 days of consistent effort to form a habit. By the time your first set of goals have run their course you will have developed the habit of being active.
Fun: Being active should be fun. It should very rarely if ever feel like work. Instead, it should feel like play. If you are having fun engaging in an activity, you are substantially more likely to keep participating. If you love running then, by all means, do it. If however, like most of us, you find running to be some sort of controlled torture (just kidding, runners I love you), it would be wise to discover an activity you truly enjoy. From a physiological and neurobiological point of view what is important is to elevate your heart rate to the 65%-85% of max heart rate for at least 150 minutes per week. This level of exertion is experienced as breathing heavy without being winded. Or if you are thinking “this is hard, but I could do it for a while” you are most likely in the right zone. Nowhere in any research, I have ever come across does it specify what type of exercise one needs to partake in. If you love the gym, go to the gym. Love the outdoors, go for a hike, or a swim, or rock climbing. The key is that you enjoy what you are doing. Find an activity you love, and it will never feel like work again, it will feel like play.
Connection: Human beings have evolved to function within communities and to crave connection with others. It is one of our most basic drives. We can leverage this to our advantage in trying to adopt an active lifestyle. Find a community to join and become a part of it. Team sports are fantastic for this, so are martial arts, hiking clubs, CrossFit Boxes, etc. When part of a community we get support and motivation from those around us. They are there to celebrate our victories and to support us after defeats. As we develop relationships with others, we begin to feel a deeper connection to the activity itself making it harder not to show up. The desire to show up for others is often stronger than the desire to show up for ourselves. As a part of a community of people who share similar interests, we form relationships that enrich us not just in our chosen activity but throughout our entire lives.
I hope that these motivation hacks are helpful and encourage some of our readers to pursue a more active lifestyle and to stick with it. The mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of being active are so many and so profound they should not be missed by anyone. Consciously choose to have the life you want, as our friend Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Success is not an action but a habit.” Create the success you desire.
We at Granite Mountain BHC are here to help. If we can help answer any questions or concerns, please reach out. We can be contacted through our website or by phone at 844-878-3221.
Until next time
Your friend in Service,
Contact us today for help with substance use disorder
There are many amazing benefits to regular exercise. Weight loss, cardiovascular health, a reduction in the risk of developing diabetes to name but a few. Recent research indicates that perhaps the greatest health benefits of exercise may actually take place inside our minds. Regardless of age or fitness level the impact of exercise on the brain can be profound. Raising one’s heart rate for as little as twenty minutes three times a week can produce amazing results. Keep reading to discover five immediate and profound cognitive rewards of regular exercise.
Get Rid of Stress and Anxiety: In the modern connected world where we are bombarded by 24 hour news, constant alerts from our mobile leashes (ahem…phones), and the rigors of career and family it is easy to feel overwhelmed, overworked, and overloaded. Exercise has been shown to have immediate effects in reducing the phenomenal experience of mental and physical stress and anxiety. It does this through several mechanisms. One of the primary ways it does so is by regulating our body’s stress hormones such as adrenaline.
Sleep Better: Studies have shown that up to 40% of the US adult population reports problems falling asleep. Lack of sleep impacts our ability to process and retain information, affects mood, and diminishes one’s quality of life. If you’ve ever been staring at your alarm clock at 2:30 in the morning knowing you have to be up early for a important meeting or other responsibility, I don’t need to tell you. In a recent national study of sleep patterns researchers found that as little as 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week enabled participants to fall asleep faster and sleep better throughout the night.
Improve Cognition and Memory: Regular exercise over a period as short as six months has been shown to increase the volume of both the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex. Other research has indicated that regular exercise increases the production of cells in the hippocampus (a process called neurogenesis). These are all areas of the brain associated with memory and cognition. When we exercise we actually make our brains bigger!
Prevent Cognitive Decline: Perhaps the most exciting new research emerging concerning exercise and the brain is centered on exercise’s ability to reduce the harm associated with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other degenerative disorders of the brain. This is a truly amazing finding. These degenerative cognitive disorders are terrible to live with and anything that can help in our fight against them is welcomed. Research indicates that regular exercise, can have a pronounced effect long term by increasing the chemicals in the brain that ward of degeneration of brain tissue.
Be More Social: Many forms of exercise are social in nature. Whether its a pick up basketball game, aerobics class, or working out in a Crossfit box, you’ll be getting a sweat in with many other people. Connection and community are two very powerful contributors to a healthy mind and a fulfilling life. We are after all merely highly evolved pack animals. We have been designed through evolution to create connection and exercise can be a great way to create connection with others in a safe healthy environment.
Help Heal From The Effects of Addiction: (BONUS BENEFIT!) As this is a blog for a substance use and gambling treatment facility I would be remiss if I didn’t spend a bit of time talking about how exercise can impact addiction and the treatment of addiction. As I have written elsewhere on this blog, addiction is a brain disease. One of the ways this can be quantified is by observing the fact that addiction like other brain diseases has predictable empirically verifiable patterns of brain damage associated with it. In the case of addiction, over the long term, much of this damage occurs within the stress and avoidance centers of the brain. This causes a phenomenal experience for an addict of feeling stress, emotional and psychic pain more acutely than the average person. Exercise works both through direct and indirect mechanisms to offset and ultimately heal this damage. Regular exercise produces, in the brain, both neuroregeneration and neurogenesis. Additionally, as touched on above exercise causes a flood of hormones to be released into the brain. These hormones are responsible for tissue growth (growth factors IGF1 and IGF2), regulating mood (dopamine, oxytocin, norepinephrine, and others). This release of hormones can reduce the experience of cravings and help to regulate the uptake and production of hormones within the body. These are just two of the many effects that exercise has that lend themselves to the treatment of addiction. There are many others, I have discussed many aspects of this in other blog posts.
Our research and the research of others show that as little as 150 minutes per week can have a dramatic impact on the brain and its functioning. Further, we have determined that in order to generate all of the profound impacts of exercise one should aim to get their heart rate in the range of 75%-85% of max heart rate. Experientially you want to be breathing heavy but not be winded. For a period of 30-45 minutes. When one hits these two markers not only do they enjoy the benefits listed above but the individual’s brain will actually be functioning at a higher frequency (as measured by Electroencephalogram). Your brain will be operating at a higher wavelength, literally!
Exercise has many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. It really doesn’t take much effort to begin to enjoy them. In conclusion, as Nike has been telling us for years “Just do it”.
Until next time Your friend in service, Rob Campbell
Source: Loprinzi and Cardinal, “Association between objectively-measured physical activity and sleep.” Mental Health and Physical Activity. 2011 Vol.4 Issue 2, pg. 65-69.
Please reach out out to us to get help with substance use disorder. Call today at 1-844-878-3221
In as little as three to four thirty minute sessions of aerobic exercise per week Dr. Suzuki’s research indicates that an individual can significantly alter their brain at three levels.
1. Exercise Increases Your Mood
“Exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today.”
This is how Dr. Wendy Suzuki begins her talk on the power of exercise as a prophylactic to all manner of brain disease and disorder. Dr. Suzuki, who had been a neuroscientist focused on memory changed the entire course of her research when she inadvertently began doing exercise research on herself. She is now a foremost expert on the transformative impact on the brain of exercise.
In as little as three to four thirty minute sessions of aerobic exercise per week Dr. Suzuki’s research indicates that an individual can significantly alter their brain at three levels. First, there are the immediate impacts on mood. A single workout will signal the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin which not only boosts an individual’s mood but will also increase their ability to shift and focus their attention. These immediate impacts will last for at least two hours. Secondly, if an individual makes fitness a part of their daily life this decision will actually alter the anatomy of their brain and the way that it functions on a long term basis. That is to say that, regular exercise creates neuroregeneration in measurable amounts. Third, regular exercise has been shown to have protective effects on the brain. Exercise protects an individual’s brain from the impact of neurodegeneration and the effects of aging.
2. Exercise Can Help Make Changes In Your Brain
At Granite Mountain BHC we employ our Recover Strong therapeutic model in an effort to take advantage of these effects. Several times each week we begin our day in the gym. We exercise for forty-five to sixty minutes as a community. We move from this right into more traditional therapy. We do this to take advantage of the effects noted by Dr. Suzuki. When brain chemistry is at a peak in terms of being conducive to neuroregeneration and the processing of new information, we engage in therapy and learning. We do this day after day, in order that our clients may engage in a process of self discovery and heal their own brains. Substance use disorder is more than the chronic overuse of a mood altering chemical. At the very least what we can say about it is that it is a disorder of the brain. Traditional therapies, especially those that focus on the processing of emotional states are beneficial. Undertaking them within a framework that maximizes brain growth and repair from a biological level is what we have found to be most effective. At Granite Mountain we are always evolving. As our own research and the research of neuroscience continues to evolve our programing will evolve in lock step. Our purpose is to bring to bear the most recent revolutionary ideas in the treatment of substance use disorder and other behavioral health concerns.
I hope that the reader will find the above linked video as inspiring as I have. For all of us the beneficial effects of exercise are too numerous and too profound to ignore. Once again, in the words of Dr. Suzuki, “exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today.”
Until next time Your friend in service, Rob Campbell VP of Communications & Market Development
If you or somebody you love is in need of help for substance use disorder, give us a call today at 1.844.878.3221