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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Engle

The Positive Impact of Physical Fitness on Brain Development and Recovery

Updated: Feb 17

As a martial arts instructor with three decades of experience, Live Your Beast Life CEO & Founder Shaun Anderson has witnessed the profound impact of martial arts, dance, and physical fitness on both developing and recovering brains. Having overcome his own addiction and alcohol abuse, Anderson shares the transformative power of fitness and wellness with students around the world. 



Shaun Anderson
Teresa Renee Rogers Photography


It was early 2019, and Anderson felt like his life was falling apart. He was in the midst of a divorce and crippled by his alcohol addiction, which had grown entirely out of his control over the past few years. He’d lost friends and polarized family members, and he was beginning to believe there was no hope left when it came to living a fulfilled and happy life. 


In fact, the despair led him to attempt to take his life. He drove his car into a telephone pole at 60 mph, determined to end the pain. Instead, he was granted grace, forgiveness, and a new perspective. 


After being found by police, Anderson was blessed with what he came to view as his second chance: a mandatory move from Santa Cruz to a rehab facility in Orange County, where he could dedicate the next nine months—and the rest of his life—to healing his mind, body and soul from the harrowing grips of addiction.


Anderson started his recovery journey with meditation and deep breathing, which re-sparked his long-lost love for martial arts that had brought him so much joy as a kid. After revisiting these practices and dusting off the cobwebs, Anderson slowly transformed into who he is today: a trusted martial arts instructor who empowers people around the world to take back their own lives with the tools of wellness and fitness. 


“Martial arts provided me with a sense of purpose, discipline, and inner strength when I needed it most,” Anderson said. “It empowered me to overcome my struggles and embark on a path of recovery, which I’m still on today.”



meditation


Through consistent practice, Anderson has witnessed his own mental health transform. Today, he is more focused, resilient, and in control of his emotions. For Anderson, martial arts training is an artistic form of expression and release, allowing him to channel his energy in a constructive manner and find the joy in movement.


“Incorporating physical fitness into my routine not only strengthened my body but also sharpened my mind, enabling me to navigate the challenges of recovery with greater clarity and resilience,” Anderson said. “These practices are now integral parts of my journey towards healing and self-discovery.”


How martial arts can help you


Martial arts  serves as a holistic approach to brain development and recovery. Research indicates that practicing martial arts stimulates the release of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, neurotransmitters associated with mood regulation and overall wellbeing. 


For anyone recovering from substance abuse, these natural chemicals can play a crucial role in restoring brain chemistry disrupted by addiction.


Martial arts training also promotes neuroplasticity: the brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself. This is particularly beneficial for developing brains, as it enhances cognitive function, memory retention, and emotional regulation. For those in recovery, neuroplasticity offers hope by facilitating the repair of neural pathways damaged by substance abuse.


Think about dance, a movement style that engages both the body and the mind and offers a myriad of benefits for brain development and recovery. 



dance


Martial arts works similarly. It requires coordination, spatial awareness, and creativity, all of which activate different regions of the brain and promote cognitive flexibility. This can be particularly advantageous for individuals in recovery, as it helps counteract the cognitive deficits often associated with prolonged substance abuse.


Introducing physical fitness into your sober living facility


Engaging in regular physical fitness activities like cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and yoga complements the benefits of martial arts, contributing to overall brain health and resilience. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients essential for optimal cognitive function.


It also promotes the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth and maintenance of neurons. BDNF plays a crucial role in neuroplasticity, facilitating the formation of new neural connections and promoting brain repair. This means the effects of exercise can help mitigate the cognitive deficits often associated with addiction.


Continuing the conversation


Because of his own experiences, Anderson remains passionate about sharing the transformative tools of martial arts and fitness with others, empowering students and people in recovery to cultivate resilience, strength, and inner peace. 


By embracing the profound connection between mind and body, we can unlock the potential for healing and growth, one step, one movement at a time. Reach out today to learn more about how Anderson’s brand of martial arts can benefit your sober living environment.

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