The Importance of Exercise to Improve the Mind

Exercise can help to enhance your child’s recovery program and improve their mental health. Many programs have integrated exercise and recreation in their programs. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment encourages residents to participate in outdoor recreation to foster the mind-body connection while getting in touch with nature. Exercise can take many different forms, from going to the gym and running on a treadmill to downhill skiing and martial arts. Your child can also gain some side benefits from exercise, like bonding with others, finding group activities, learning teamwork, and goal setting. When coupled with healthy eating and nutrition, exercise can significantly improve your kid’s overall quality of life and help them discover healthy recovery habits. 

The Mind-Body Connection

Our mind and body share a connection where one can influence the other. An easy way of testing the mind-body connection is to smile. When you smile, you activate similar mood-boosting chemicals in your brain that also cause you to smile. Smiling is both a sign that you are feeling joy and a way of boosting your mood. The chemical release causes the behavior, and the action can cause the release of feel-good chemicals! You and your child’s mood can be influenced by how your body feels. When you are sick, you might feel low or down. The mind-body connection is again at work–the feelings of weakness when feeling ill influence you to feel a little down and maybe “not quite yourself.” Exercise can “tap” into this connection to boost your child’s mood and improve their mental health.

The “Runner’s High” 

Physical activities, like running, hiking, or weight training, cause our brains to release “feel-good” chemicals that reinforce our behavior. The phenomenon is often referred to as the “runner’s high,” as runners can feel euphoric and happy, even after doing something taxing. Exerting activities cause the release of chemicals in the first place, thus reinforcing the healthy behavior. The boost in mood during exercise can have lingering effects on your child’s mental health throughout the day. 

These chemicals are crucial to relieving stress in the body, as stress releases our “feel-bad” chemicals. The “feel-bad” chemicals have the opposite effect on the body. These chemicals are meant to help us survive by introducing an adverse effect on our moods when encountering danger or threats. The release of these chemicals occurs when we are experiencing stress and anxiety. Our brains interpret stress and anxiety as “danger.” In response, our brain floods our minds with these “feel-bad” chemicals to teach us to avoid whatever triggers their release. The “feel-good” chemicals take over during exercise and cleanse us of these “feel-bad” chemicals. Kids can learn healthy means of relieving stress when they are young that can foster lifelong hobbies and habits.

Other Benefits of Exercise

Exercise can have other benefits that ultimately help our mood and mental health. Your child might meet new people during an exercise class, hiking outing, or sport. They can find like-minded friends engaged in healthy activities and rituals. Finding their tribe in recovery is essential, and when our kids make friends through healthy activities, they can find the connections they desire to belong and feel wanted. Our kids may have bonded with others while engaging in unhealthy behaviors, like getting together to get drunk or stoned. Now in recovery, we can teach our kids to look for new ways to connect with others, and exercise can be a great start!

Physical activities can also help our kids open up during treatment or connect with other supports. They might share an interest in bike riding or hiking with important people in their lives that they want to form deeper connections with. Exercise can open the door for beginning some of these deep connections that we as parents desire to have with our kids. Sometimes, speaking to others in a setting like a therapist’s office or at the dinner table feels intimidating. Shared activities can give us a “prop” to start a conversation or find a common bond with our kids.

Exercise can also be an effective means of diverting attention from unhealthy thought patterns to get in touch with the present. Anxiety, stress, and depression can rob our kids of the present moment as they run through imagined scenarios or worrying thoughts. They can get out of their heads and back into the world by focusing on their physical selves. By learning new skills during exercise, getting outdoors, bonding with others, and keeping their minds occupied, our kids can reduce the amount of time that they spend worrying. They can develop their self-confidence and self-esteem while keeping themselves healthy and happy. 

Exercise has many benefits for your child during your recovery from addiction or treatment of mental health issues. They can boost their mood and improve their mental health by finding a fun physical activity to incorporate into treatment!

Exercise can be significantly helpful for those treating their mental health or addictions. Your kid can boost their mood by getting just a few minutes of exercise daily. Taking a short walk around the block or just doing some stretching can help your child gain some benefits of exercise. They can begin a new daily exercise routine that can open up new doors for them and introduce them to healthy, like-minded individuals like themselves. When you and your child incorporate exercise with healthy eating and nutrition, you can enhance your child’s recovery treatment program. You might even find new ways of bonding and connecting with your kid! Many recovery programs include an exercise component in their treatment. The activities can range from yoga and gym memberships to outdoor exploration and adventures! Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center incorporates outdoor exploration in the beautiful Rocky Mountains for our residents in treatment. For more information about recovery and our programs, call us at (303) 443-3343.

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