The Importance of Exercise in IOP Treatment

You have taken huge steps to create a better life for yourself by getting help for your mental health. It’s a long, challenging road in mental health php and iop treatment, and some days can seem almost impossible to get through. It is important to have every tool possible to help you on your journey. Exercise is one of the most valuable items to have in your toolbelt.

Research has shown that regular exercise also reduces the occurrence of anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are also significant risk factors that compel people to use and abuse substances.¹ Exercise is an easily available, affordable, and side-effect free way to help treat these conditions.

Don’t panic! Exercise does not have to be intense or uncomfortable to be of benefit. If you love working out hard and getting super sweaty, that’s great, but gentle exercise also improves physical and mental health.² Here, we will go over the ways that exercise can help you in your journey toward better mental health and reduce anxiety and depression and describe what kinds of exercise might be best for you.

How Does Exercise Help Mental Health?

Regular exercise has a variety of positive effects on the body and mind. In addition to participating in some sort of therapy, and using appropriate medications if needed, exercise has many benefits for mental health.

Exercise Reduces Stress

Everyone has stress in their lives, and people who struggle with anxiety and depression can find stress particularly challenging. Life stressors can easily lead to substance abuse or relapse if they are not handled in a healthy way. Exercise is a way to reduce stress by improving blood flow and releasing feel-good chemicals into the bloodstream. Exercise can even help reduce symptoms of PTSD and lower anxiety levels.³

Exercise Can Help You Sleep

People with anxiety and depression and those in recovery are often well acquainted with sleep disturbances. Research clearly shows that regular exercise, even gentle exercise such as yoga, walking, or dancing, can help improve your sleep.

While researchers aren’t able to pinpoint exactly how exercise improves sleep, they have found that regular exercise can be as effective as some sleep medications. Some people may find that exercising later in the day may perk them up too much, so pay attention to your body’s signals about what time of day exercise works best for you.⁴

Exercise Improves Your Mood

According to researchers, regular exercise contributes to better overall mental health and even lowers rates of mental illness. The effect is most noticeable for people who struggle with anxiety and depression. Physical activity has been found to be as effective as some medications and treatments for depression, which makes it a very important addition to your recovery toolbox.⁵

Boost Your Energy Levels with Exercise

Mental health recovery is hard work. The emotional work that goes into gaining and maintaining better mental health often leaves people feeling drained. It probably seems like the last thing you would want to do is get off the couch and exert yourself more. While getting up and moving may take some effort, you will likely feel better and more energetic for having gotten moving.

Numerous studies have shown that exercise will improve energy levels just as well as stimulants and can be even better than napping.⁶ Taking a simple 20-minute walk around the neighborhood can perk you up and improve your mood.

The Benefits of Exercise in Mental Health Treatment

The research has shown that regular exercise can reduce the incidents of relapse, as well as reduce the likelihood of creating bad habits. Abstinence rates from substances of abuse go up dramatically for people who get some sort of exercise on a regular basis.¹

In addition to the reasons listed previously, researchers believe there may be other factors at work when exercise is included as part of a recovery plan. One theory is that regular exercise may help the brain create new and healthier neural pathways, as well as being a non-drug-based activity that the nervous system finds pleasurable.¹

In the wiring of the brain there is believed to be a system of “reward and reinforcement,” which means that when an activity is engaged in that has a positive outcome, it is likely that the behavior will be repeated.⁷

When someone is experiencing overwhelming anxiety and the use of alcohol or a drug relieves that anxiety, then the brain will initiate the process for that behavior to be repeated and a habit will be born. By the same token, when someone feels anxious and goes for a brisk 30-minute walk and then feels better, a new pathway for a healthy and positive reward and reinforcement loop can be created.

Types of Exercise That Help Improve Mental Health

There is no right or wrong type of exercise in this situation. The point is to get moving in whatever way works best for you. If you like to run hard and get sweaty and out of breath, then go for it! If you prefer a quiet walk in the woods or a swim in the river, then do that! Just get moving.

Some folks love the gym, and some people can’t stand it. It’s all good. Finding the right way to exercise is a personal journey, just as finding the iop program for mental health. Some people need to keep changing what they do and some need a solid routine in order to be successful and exercise regularly.

Start small if it seems overwhelming. Set a goal and make it achievable, and then work from there. Most people give up on a new behavior because they believe they have to “go big or go home,” but in reality the best goal is the one you can reach. If it’s hard to get going, then make a commitment to walk to the corner three times a week. If you decide to go farther once you are at the corner, then wonderful!

Some ideas for exercise are:

  • Yoga with a video or in person
  • Doing workouts at home with a video
  • Strolling the neighborhood with a friend
  • Hiking in the woods
  • Running in the park or on a treadmill
  • Swimming in nature or at the pool
  • Exercise class at the gym or online
  • Ballroom or swing dance classes
  • Home solo dance party with music
  • Playing frisbee with a friend
  • Trying rock climbing
  • Kayaking around a lake or river
  • Weight lifting at the gym with a trainer
  • Taking a martial arts class
  • Trying trapeze or circus arts if they are available in your area

The point is to find something that calls to you and gets you moving. Another benefit of exercising is that you will learn about yourself and maybe even make some new friends and find new social connections. Creating new places to play, learn, and grow is a vital part of Improving mental health and recovery as well.

Here at Balance Treatment Center, we offer residential and outpatient programs to help support you on your journey. Contact us today to find out how we can help or call us any time, toll-free at (855) 414-8100.