The Benefits of Exercise (Including a link to Triathlete Magazine’s Pool Etiquette: Mind-Manners-Lap-Swim-101)

Home » Active Duty and Veteran Supports » The Benefits of Exercise (Including a link to Triathlete Magazine’s Pool Etiquette: Mind-Manners-Lap-Swim-101)

Swimming is good for mental health, physical health and emotional health.  When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which helps with attention and clear thinking.  People with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often have less dopamine than usual in their brain.  The stimulant medicines that are often used to treat adult ADHD work by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain.  So it makes sense that a workout can have many of the same effects as stimulant drugs.

Because of these effects, some people with ADHD are able to lower their medication dose — or even stop taking medicines altogether.  For example, Michael Phelps was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and put on Ritalin at age 9.  But after 2 years and a lot of hard work and swimming, Michael was able to stop the medication.

michael phelps

Fitness can have the following benefits for adults with ADHD:

  • Ease stress and anxiety.
  • Improve impulse control and reduce compulsive behavior.
  • Enhance working memory.
  • Improve executive function. That’s the set of skills needed to plan, organize, and remember details.

We will be starting Swim Groups in our lap pool pretty soon.  More seasoned swimmers are likely to know the rules of the pool but beginners can be intimidating sometimes because they are on new territory.  We would like everyone to have a positive experience.    Please join us!  Here is a short article by Triathlete Magazine about lap swimming etiquette:



Harvard Health Publications from the Harvard School of medicine states, “Regular aerobic exercise can bring remarkable changes not just to your BODY, your METABOLISM, and your HEART, but also to your SPIRIT.”  Aerobic exercise is the key for your head, just as it is for your heart.  It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress.  Endurance athletes commonly experience the restorative power of exercise, and this has been verified in clinical trials that have used exercise to treat anxiety and depressionHarvard Men’s Health Watch notes that you should exercise nearly every day.  That doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym.  But it does mean at least 30 minutes of moderate activity.



  • promotes the formation of blood vessels in the brain
  • forges connections between cells
  • enhances repair of neural tissue
  • generates new neurons in memory-formation areas


brain exercise 2

Aerobic exercises, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression. These include:

  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Walking
  • Gardening
  • Dancing


These improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the BRAIN.  This physiologic influence is probably mediated by the communication of the HPA axis with several regions of the brain, including the limbic system, which controls motivation and mood, the amygdala, which generates fear in response to stress, and the hippocampus, which plays an important part in memory formation as well as in mood and motivation.


Competitive runners in a cross country race.

Through its actions on hormones that affect the nervous system, exercise also improves TOLERANCE OF STRESS—an observation that is particularly intriguing given the links between stress and drug abuse.”

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.

Besides assisting with appropriate dopamine levels in the brain, exercise aids with the serotonin functions in the brain.  Serotonin also plays a prominent role in the way hallucinogens act on the brain, greatly increasing serotonin levels in certain brain cells.  Hallucinogens are serotonin “agonists,” which means they are molecularly similar enough to serotonin to dock with serotonin receptors.  Large increases in serotonin levels have also been measured in users of ecstasy.  Ecstasy appears to push the serotonin system into overdrive by interfering with serotonin mop-up transporters, similar to the way cocaine affects dopamine.  Elevated serotonin causes short-term euphoria but depletes it in the longer-term.  Chronic ecstasy users, for example, were found to have 50%-80% lower concentrations of serotonin.

Exercise relieves and reduces stress.

Exercise has been shown to alleviate both physical and psychological stress. Tension builds in our bodies when we’re at work, during everyday interactions, and even when we’re watching television.  This tension can come from having poor posture at work or having a bad interaction with a co-worker.  Moving your body alleviates this tension, and allows you to get rid of any negative emotions you have been keeping in. Focused exercise uses both physical and emotional energy, that might otherwise find unhealthy ways of escaping.

Exercise naturally and positively alters your brain chemistry.

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which create a natural high. These are the same endorphins your body released while you abused substances.  However, abuse of drugs and alcohol causes an imbalance that interferes with a person’s ability to feel pleasure, happiness, and satisfaction.  Dedicated physical activity during treatment and recovery will help you reintroduce natural levels of endorphins in your system. This not only helps you feel better, but reteaches your body that it is capable of regulating your own brain chemistry and mood in healthy, natural ways.

 “Exercise is meditation in motion.”

The Mayo Clinic has described exercise as “meditation in motion,” meaning by concentrating on the physical we can experience the psychological and emotional benefits of meditation.  Through movement, we can refocus our thoughts on our own well-being and forget, at least briefly, all that is going on in our lives. You may leave your work-out with a clearer mind, feeling more rejuvenated and optimistic. Finding this clarity within chaos can make recovery much more manageable.

Exercise improves your outlook.

Those who exercise regularly report increased feelings of self-confidence and optimism and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety. This is in part has to do with the body regulating and calibrating itself during exercise, but it also has to do with feelings of accomplishment, pride, and self worth as you see your body transform and your goals reached. As you reach certain benchmarks you feel more accomplished, and reinforces the goal of continued sobriety as attainable.

In addition, regular exercise fosters improved:

  • Sleep
  • Greater energy
  • Enhanced feelings of well being

all which make life much more manageable and enjoyable and recovery that much more possible and sustainable.

Such observations may explain why:

  1. competitive runners experience mood elevations
  2. physical activity sometimes relieves depression
  3. older people who exercise improve in both mood and cognitive function.

Senior Couple Exercising In Park


Please Join Us for the Couch to 5K in Buffalo starting January 26th @7:30am.

Contact us for the location:  609.510.4007



couch to 5k 1


If you have been abusing substances please be sure that your physician has medically cleared you to perform physical activity.  Abuse of certain substances may cause issues with your blood pressure and other parts of your physiological makeup AND could lead to a stroke or seizure if you are still going through your initial detox from your substance.  You should be finished with your 3-5 day detox and cleared to begin physical activity.

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