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6 Ways Exercise Can Benefit Recovery

Carly BensonRehab

When a person enters into treatment for substance abuse, they are in essence giving up an addiction. Sobriety can be an exciting new beginning that allows someone who previously struggled with a bad habit to replace their struggles with new practices and a healthier lifestyle.

Regular exercise at the beginning of recovery can be instrumental for people in treatment. Many treatment centers incorporate exercise into their programs for this very reason.

What Role Does Exercise Play in Recovery?

There are a tested and proven correlations between exercise and alcohol recovery. Research shows that exercise releases endorphins to the body, creating a natural high. These are the same type of endorphins people have released when they are abusing substances.

By exercising during recovery, it helps a person reintroduce healthy endorphins back into their body.

According to a study done by Frontiers in Psychiatry on the National Institute of Health, “Accumulating evidence shows that exercise influences many of the same signaling molecules and neuroanatomical structures that mediate the positive reinforcing effects of drugs. These studies have revealed that exercise produces protective effects in procedures designed to model different transitional phases that occur during the development of, and recovery from, a substance use disorder.”

In another study performed on rats, researchers offered the rats a dispenser with various drugs such as nicotine, morphine, and amphetamines.

The rats that used the wheel and exercised, hit the dispenser far less than those that did not exercise at all.

Thus suggesting that exercise can play a very active role in offering a healthy alternative to abusing substances.

What Are the Benefits of Exercising During Recovery?

The benefits of exercise in recovery are rather comprehensive. First and foremost, the more obvious benefits are the health-related ones. Exercise increases cardiovascular health and also helps improve the immune system functions. There are several other benefits of regular exercise on addiction recovery, including:

Feelings of well-being are often an offset of exercise.

Partially due to the release of endorphins, but also because physical activity offers a sense of accomplishment and confidence, especially when the body starts to transform and goals begin to be met.

Improved sleep can be a valuable result of regular exercise.

According to SMART Recovery, “As the body and mind continue to return to a more normal state, many people in recovery find exercise also helps restore a normal sleep schedule.”

Exercise gives a person more structure for their day.

Having a certain time of day or type of activity to incorporate into life helps to create a routine and can help someone in recovery to stay on track.

Exercise can significantly reduce stress levels.

By moving the body, exercise effectively alleviates tension and creates a much healthier release of negative emotions and stress.

Better self-care is always a great benefit of exercising during recovery.

Taking better care of yourself and your body is the ultimate goal of sobriety.

Another underrated advantage of exercise is that it is a healthy way to fill up time

Once someone enters into recovery, they often find they have a lot more time on their hands. Exercise is a great way to discover new ways to spend their time.

What Exercises Are Best for Someone in Recovery?

There is no one-size-fits-all for exercise, whether in recovery or not. Everyone enjoys different methods of getting their sweat on and there truly is no right or wrong way to being more active.

Addiction recovery activities most commonly include the following exercise options but will vary based on the rehabilitation facility:

  • Yoga
  • Cardio
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Aerobic Classes

Treatment facilities offering exercise options typically allow their patients to choose the activity that best suits their preferences. In all reality, any sort of physical activity is beneficial to recovery.

If you or someone you know is has a problem with drugs or alcohol, treatment programs are available that integrate exercise as a holistic approach to recovery. Contact our Chandler drug addiction treatment advisers today to learn more about the treatment options available.


Exercise as a Potential Treatment for Drug Abuse: Evidence from Preclinical Studies, Frontiers In Psychiatry, National Institute of Health,, Jan 2012.Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Treatment, SMART Recovery,, December 2012

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Carly Benson

About Carly Benson

As an avid traveler, yogi & confessed self-help junkie, Carly writes about her adventures in life & sobriety on where she offers inspirational concepts for enlightenment, spirituality, and embracing epicness.

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August 8th 2016 | By: Carly Benson | Posted In: Rehab