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Benefits of Exercise in Recovery

Quitting an addiction is very hard work, and any idea that can make it easier and more accessible is a welcome break. There actually is a secret weapon to make everything much easier, that most do not use. It’s available to anyone attempting to quit, and it’s free. The benefits of exercise in recovery are often simply not taken advantage of the way they should, in giving your body and brain an extra push that they can use in the very difficult struggle against addiction.

3 Minute Read | Published Aug 17 2023 | Updated Mar 07 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Todd Ludwig
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Todd Ludwig
Reviewed by

Learn the Benefits of Exercise in Recovery

It doesn’t matter what specific form of exercise you prefer – Pilates to dance, spinning to hot yoga, weightlifting to marathon running – if it engages you and makes you sweat, it helps in recovery.

Physical activity and substance abuse

While a great workout is linked to many psychological gains, there are two benefits that tangibly lead to improved recovery:

  • Sustained physical activity raises the heart rate and prompts the release of endorphins and endocannabinoids, natural biological substances known for their ability to lower pain, and produce a natural high.  Recovering addicts have been known to switch to sustained exercise for the high alone.
  • Physical activity can both distract the mind from an unhealthy fixation on drug use, and also suppress various withdrawal effects. It can simply make detox easier.

Additional benefits of exercise in recovery

You’ll sleep better: Both addiction and the process of quitting involve disruptions to the body’s natural sleep rhythm. A good fitness routine is an excellent way to restore the sleep cycle.

Exercise is a form of meditation: Meditation, by itself, is an activity that comes highly recommended for addiction recovery. It helps focus the mind. According to research by Mayo Clinic, exercise, as an activity, is not unlike meditation. In many ways, the emotional and psychological effects on the brain are similar.

Stress relief: If you’re in recovery, you’re probably constantly worried about the way your treatment is progressing. It can be stressful time, and you need a way to both take your mind off it, and be more hopeful. Thanks to chemicals produced in the brain during exercise, such activity is an excellent way to release stress.

Improved mental health: Mental health tends to be a challenge to those who suffer from addiction. While you should certainly accept psychiatric and psychological treatment for any disorders that you may have, exercise is an excellent way to help the cause. Not only does exercise help improve brain chemistry, it lowers the incidence of anxiety and depression, and improves feelings of self-worth, all of which greatly help in patient engagement in treatment.

You might even surprise yourself!

Many elite ultra-fitness athletes – trail runners, marathoners, CrossFit athletes and Ironman enthusiasts – happen to be recovering addicts. There are even programs such as Racing for Recovery, designed specifically for the needs of recovering addicts. It can help to read the amazing stories of the thousands of recovering addicts who have found a new religion, a new purpose in life, in extreme fitness, and try one of these programs.

If you’re looking for a special, enjoyable way to sobriety, addiction recovery activities just might be for you. Not every inpatient rehab is designed to allow patients to get the exercise that they need, however. If you’re planning to go into rehab, you need to make sure that the center you choose focuses strongly on exercise. Once you’re out of rehab, you’ll get to involve yourself more deeply than ever.

For more information on ways to stay sober, or to begin your journey to recovery, call us today at (800) 429-7690 – we’ll help you find the right addiction treatment program for your needs.


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