fitness helps improve mental health

Mental health can be referred to as a level of physiological and psychological wellbeing which entails functioning at a satisfactory standard of emotional and behavioural adjustment in society.

A good mental health means you’re living a relatively healthy and happy life. Maintaining your mental health is of utmost importance since the rigours of human life can take a toll on your psyche. How you create a balance between your daily tasks, efforts and your societal relationships gives an idea of your mental framework.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness* (NAMI), one in five adults in the United States experience mental illness each year. One in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental disorder each year. 50 per cent of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14 and 75 per cent by age 24. These statistics reflect the importance of having a strong mental health and how real its issues are. Coupled with a balanced diet, and a steady exercise routine would do wonders to people who are battling mental issues. Online programs like Total Shape offer thorough charts to help you work out the best you can to build your physique and feel strong mentally.

A healthy body equals healthy mind

One of the major ways in which you can improve your mental health is by physical activity or maintaining fitness levels. Switching to a physically active lifestyle and maintaining the right fitness levels help a great deal in not just coping with mental issues but also help improve your state of mind. We will study these in detail.

Fitness Helps Fight Depression

Depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness. As per WHO*, more than 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression globally. However, regular exercise is a very potent remedy to fight depression. A good workout helps the body release endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals. Even if you are not doing a high-intensity workout daily but are keeping good fitness levels by doing some form of physical activity regularly through the week, it is good for your mental health. Neuroscientists say that exercising regularly supports nerve cell growth, improving nerve cell connections that relieve depression.

Exercise Reduces Stress

Stress is something that causes a chain of events in our body. In stress, the hormone adrenaline is released which increases your blood pressure after rising breathing and heart rate levels. Exercise is a great way to manage and reduce stress levels. Aerobic exercise is a proven way to have a calming effect that curb stress-related illnesses. A 150-minute-per-week fitness program is usually recommended to remain mentally healthy. The types of work out include walking, yoga, tai chi, cycling, swimming, dancing and zumba etc.

A Good Work Out reduces Anxiety Levels

Worrying at length becomes a harsh problem for our bodies. Anxiety causes physical and emotional side-effects. While proper medication is advised to deal with anxiety, exercise helps cut down its ill effects. Anxiety is linked to heart rate.

If you’re someone who is new to the gym routine, chances are that your heart rate will rise rapidly after your first run on the treadmill. However, when you work out in between short breaks, your heart rate becomes consistent and your fitness levels improve in the long run.

Fitness increases Memory Power

Staying physically fit helps improve your memory power and thinking ability. Anxiety and stress can cause cognitive impairment and doing physical exercise helps the brain function properly by increasing cell development in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

Exercise enhances sleep cycles which aid in better memory power and thinking ability. A good morning cardio helps process new information in the day and better response to complex situations. Weight training can be a good remedy to those who are recovering from insomnia.

Exercise Builds Self Confidence

While improving your brain function, regular exercises help you gain a high-level of accomplishment. Whether it is betting your score at a 100-meter dash or the weights you lift at the gym, working out will lift your spirits and prompt you to do better each time. Working out to tone your body fat will increase your self-esteem when you see the positive results day after day. You will feel more confident when your body image improves.

Fitness Helps Create a Positive Mind-set

Exercise helps create positivity within you. Exercising relieves worry and aids the mind to focus on other things. Working out is one of the best ways to overcome negative thinking. Be it gardening, washing your car, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or cycling to work, you will feel positive about these practices that will help you stay mentally strong and agile.

Working Out Helps Deal with Addictions

Addiction has an adverse effect on your body. Seizures, strokes and joint infections are few of the problems that come from severe addiction. Walking and jogging is believed to have helped lessen peoples’ cravings for substance. Exercise is often recommended as an added measure to psychotherapy while dealing with drug abuse.

An active outdoor workout can increase dopamine levels during treatment of addicts. Many recovery and rehab centers include yoga in their daily activity plan as it helps deal with stress, which can trigger a relapse and sends you into a state of medication. Part-taking in team sports activities help in building camaraderie and competitive spirit, both are good ways to welcome the addicts back into society.

Juggling your work, responsibilities, hobbies and health all at the same time can be a tedious ask. Here are a few suggestions that can help you find that perfect balance.

Now that you’ve understood the importance of maintaining high mental fitness levels and the ways exercise helps you keep your mind healthy, go ahead and choose your physical activity, create a daily fitness plan, work out a routine and stay positive. You can do it, build those muscles, burn that fat, you’ll see your pain turn into gain!

Fulfill Your Basic Needs

If you have ever taken a psychology class you have probably learned at least something about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In case you can’t remember or need a little refresher, here is what it’s all about: you need to fulfill your basic needs before you can fulfill your more complex needs. He created a pyramid with the most basic needs being at the bottom and the more complex needs at the top. Here is what they are (going from bottom to top)

  • Physiological
  • Safety
  • Love or Belonging
  • Esteem
  • Self-Actualization

While I am sure that many of us would like to skip to the top and go straight to self-actualization, that is not how it works. We have to make an effort to meet the needs at the bottom of the pyramid before we can work our way up.

Many people who struggle with addiction have a very difficult time meeting these basic needs. Often addiction takes over all of the other things we would usually do to take care of ourselves. Behaviors that seems so fundamental like eating and sleeping fall away. For people in early recovery it is vital to re-establish these healthy self-care behaviors. Here are some ways you can start to meet those basic needs so that you can start to move up that pyramid.

Eat Well

Eating well can mean different things to different people. There is no blanket diet that is good for all people. However, there are some basics that have been researched. The NIH ( recommends emphasizing vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. It can also be beneficial to eat lean meats and proteins. You should try to limit sugar intake and control portion sizes in general. Following these simple recommendations can help you get your diet back on track. Dietary counseling has become common at many holistic treatment centers, as it’s a crucial piece to investigate if we are going to recover.

Drink Water

Contrary to what many bottled water companies would like you to believe, you don’t need to drink a ridiculous amount of water in order to stay hydrated. In fact, research has shown that just 2 cups of water per day can be enough for healthy adults. It is of course important to meet this minimum so that you aren’t dehydrated. Drinking water can help reduce stress, help us focus, and of course keeps our physical bodies running smoothly.


Get Your Sleep

Sleep needs tend to change for people over the course of the lifetime. For anyone who is chronically sleep deprived you probably know first-hand the negative effects it can have on the body. People who are sleep deprived tend to have worse concentration and memory. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to obesity and cardiovascular disease. Just like the water tip above, you do not need some crazy amount of sleep in order to meet your needs. But, if you are feeling tired you probably could use some more. Listen to your body and investigate for yourself what the right amount of sleep is for you.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise has been linked to a whole host of positive outcomes. According to the CDC it will boost mood and has positive mental health benefits as well as being beneficial for your physical body. Getting even a little exercise regularly will be hugely beneficial. Exercise has proven effective in increasing mood, helping treat depression, and helping people focus more on daily tasks.

Go to the Doctor

When we are kids most of us go to the doctor pretty regularly because our parents take us. For many young adults they don’t get to the doctor as often as they probably should. People struggling with addiction sometimes avoid seeing doctors for fear that their addiction might be found out. For people in early recovery it is crucial to get back into the habit of seeking medical help regularly and as needed. Duke Health recommends that healthy people under 30 get a physical every 2 or so years. They also recommend that women who are sexually active get see a gynecologist regularly. Taking care of your physical health in this way can really help your mental health.

Practice Meditation

This might seem like one of those things that isn’t a “basic need”. However, meditation can really help you meet some of your most basic needs for mental health. Meditation has been shown to reduce cortisol levels thereby reducing stress levels ( Being that stress is one of the biggest triggers for most mental health issues this can be truly foundational to well-being. If you are looking to start a regular meditation practice there are a number of easy apps and breathing techniques that can be done regularly with very little time commitment.

Speak up for Yourself

This tip is one that moves from Maslow’s bottom tier of physiological needs up to safety. It can be really difficult for people to ask for their needs to be met. It can also be very difficult for people who are newly sober or trying to get sober to ask for help when it is needed. Speaking up for yourself even when it is hard can be a great way to increase your sense of safety. Doing so will allow you to lean on others for support and safety and have you needs met by the people close to you.

Establish Good Boundaries

This tip also addresses your basic need for safety. Part of addiction is very blurry boundaries. This might mean people who are enabling or codependent, it can also mean having people around who are too demanding. One of the best ways to start keeping yourself safe in recovery is to establish good boundaries with the people around you. Sometimes this means cutting off friends who just enable using or saying “no” to people who demand too much.

Remember to Have Fun

It is hard to meet your basic needs if there isn’t some time for breaks and fun. It is important in early recovery to start to care for yourself in all of these ways but also to be gentle with yourself and enjoy the process. The best way to motivate yourself to meet your basic needs is to enjoy the time you spend doing it. Maybe you pick one of these like exercise or nutrition that becomes a hobby for you. Whatever you do, remember that it is hard to meet complex needs like happiness and friendship when you aren’t being taken care of in basic ways.

Holistic Nutrition Education

Good nutrition education is an important factor in addiction recovery. Prolonged drug and alcohol abuse take a major toll on physical health, and getting the body’s systems back to their optimum functioning should be a major consideration in treatment. A healthy diet impacts everything from the intensity of withdrawal symptoms to mood, level of alertness and overall sense of well-being.

Self-care is a major focus in addiction treatment, and good self-care includes eating properly and staying hydrated. Nutrition education is the first step in helping people in recovery begin to eat better, which is usually the first major essential lifestyle change.

Good Nutrition from the Get-Go is Essential

Detoxification is the first step in treatment. From the very start, eating healthy food is crucial for fueling the internal repairs that are taking place, which may include recovering from malnutrition and enhancing the functioning of the body’s systems. The National Institutes of Health points out that good nutrition during the detox process can ease a range of withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, gastrointestinal discomfort and sleep problems.

A Healthy Diet Helps Prevent Relapse

Research shows that enjoying good overall health and a high sense of physical well-being makes people less likely to relapse. One reason for this is that the pleasant physical effects of eating healthy food often lead to other healthy lifestyle choices like exercising, meditating and taking steps to reduce stress. Combined, these can dramatically reduce the risk of relapse.

A Healthy Diet Can Help Reverse the Effects of Substance Abuse

Chronic alcohol and drug abuse can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies, neurological problems, anemia and liver damage, among other health issues. Good nutrition helps to reverse much of the damage done by substance abuse.

Weight gain and weight loss may occur as a result of addiction and poor nutrition. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is largely a matter of eating a nutritious diet and getting plenty of exercise.

The Importance of Nutrition Education in Treatment

Addressing the many various and highly individual aspects of an addiction, including physical health, is absolutely essential for successful recovery, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

To that end, Elevation takes a holistic approach to treatment that includes a wide range of traditional and alternative therapies that address body, mind and spirit. Nutrition education is an integral part of our programming, as it should be in any high-quality treatment program.

Nutrition education helps our clients make informed, healthy choices that strengthen the body’s systems, improve mental functioning, help stabilize the mood, and foster a higher sense of well-being, all of which are crucial for successful long-term recovery.

Understanding basic nutrition is essential for knowing how to optimally fuel the body for the long fight ahead, and knowing how to choose and prepare healthy food is vital for maintaining a healthy diet once treatment is complete. Nutrition education encompasses all of these aspects to help people in recovery maintain overall wellness and good health.

Holistic Wellness Meditation

Every morning, the clients of Elevation engage in mindful meditation to start out the day with calmness and mental clarity. In recent years, practicing this mindfulness has become a mainstream practice, and for good reason. According to Mayo Clinic, physicians recommend meditation to help their patients manage the symptoms of a wide range of conditions, from cancer to asthma and heart disease to insomnia.

What Exactly is Meditation?

When someone thinks of meditation, images of people sitting cross-legged on the floor chanting “ohm” may come to mind, but the truth is, it is simply the act of quieting the mind and focusing your attention on the present moment, and it can be done anywhere and in any position.

During meditation, when conscious thoughts arise, they’re simply acknowledged and then sent along like a leaf floating downstream. the practice has a number of far-reaching benefits for people in recovery.

Meditation and Stress, Anxiety and Depression

It’s understood that stress and mental illnesses like anxiety and depression are major factors for substance abuse and relapse.

Meditation is a potent stress reliever, according to Journal of Substance Abuse. The study found that practicing the holistic method reduced incidents of stress-related relapse among participants in an outpatient addiction treatment program. Meditation also helps the brain and body respond better to stress in general, further mitigating stress as a factor in relapse.

A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that mindfulness helps ease anxiety and depression, which are also associated with substance abuse and relapse. Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, notes that mindfulness helps people recognize unhealthy thoughts and mindfully replace them with those that are healthier.

Becoming free of negative thought patterns is a major consideration in addiction treatment, because negative thoughts foster negative behaviors. Clarity of thought gained through mindfulness is associated with making better choices that positively impact life in recovery.

Meditation and Cravings

Regular meditation can have a big impact on cravings as well. Increased mindfulness leads to fewer negative automatic responses to cravings as practitioners learn to listen to their body and mind and respond to its cues and sensations with mindful awareness and deliberateness. As they learn to accept thoughts and feelings without judgment, evaluate their attitude and quiet the mind’s chatter, it becomes easier to respond to cravings and other negative experiences in healthy and productive ways.

Meditation as Part of a Holistic Approach to Treatment

A large body of research points to the range of benefits of mindfulness in recovery. A high-quality treatment program that takes a holistic approach to treatment offers the best chances for long-term recovery.

Beating an addiction isn’t easy, but a holistic program that addresses issues of body, mind and spirit through various traditional and non-traditional therapies like meditation can lead to real and meaningful change and a better chance of successful long-term recovery.