The Importance of Exercise in Addiction Recovery

When a person exercises they experience positive physical, mental, and emotional results. Exercising is a key component to a healthy lifestyle. For this reason, exercising in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is generally encouraged. The simple things like a well balanced diet and exercise can go a long way in helping one stay sober. It helps in early recovery by speeding up the process of getting healthy. It also helps with long term recovery by maintaining one’s overall health and establishing healthy relationships and routines through exercising or going to the gym.

A recent study has found that exercise reduces the risk of relapse during early recovery. Interestingly, there was correlation between exercise and relapse rate or urges, but no correlation between the actual length of the workout and relapse rates. Simply put, being involved in physical fitness, on any level, was enough to reduce the cravings and help prevent relapse. Even a 20-minute workout can go a long way. The study also found that even during active addiction, exercising resulted in the addicts not needing as much of their drug of choice to be satisfied.

Exercise, like drugs and alcohol, activate the brain’s reward system. Runners have often referred to the rewarding feeling they obtain while running as “runner’s high”. The “feel good” chemicals that exercise brings on can show a person that there are other ways of becoming elated besides using drugs. 

It may seem like a simple task, but exercising can ripple into other aspects of recovery as well. Many who start exercising, even in small amounts, will start to incorporate other healthy aspects into their lives naturally. They may be more inclined to eat healthy to hold onto feeling well or dress nicer because their overall confidence has improved. Exercising can start small, and snowball into a very healthy lifestyle.

Exercise is a key component to our men’s residential treatment program, women’s rehab and our young adult addiction treatment program. This, coupled with our nutritional program, helps clients get physically healthy along with the spiritual and mental health that comes with getting sober.