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How Exercise Can Help With Addiction Recovery

Exercise may be your new best friend if you’re recovering from addiction and looking for ways to stay on track and avoid relapse. During your recovery process, you’re going to have ups and downs — and that’s okay and expected.

Some days, you may feel low energy, depressed, or have serious withdrawal symptoms. On other days, you may feel like you’re barely getting by. Exercise is one of many strategies you can use to help you in your recovery from addiction.

Remember that deciding to get sober was the first positive step. Remind yourself that it will get better, and exercise can be a part of your comeback story. For some people, exercise becomes their go-to when they’re having a rough day. The key is getting started!

There are many others, just like you, recovering from addiction and moving toward a life of sobriety. Over 20 million Americans over the age of 12 are suffering from some kind of substance abuse disorder. Many have found exercise as a healthy coping mechanism and even a new way of life.

If you’re interested in incorporating exercise into your life, consider the support of a community. This can be achieved through group exercise or walking with a friend. Or you can find support through a sobriety app — and find out how others in recovery are implementing exercise as part of their self-care or treatment program.

What Are the Benefits of Exercise During Recovery?

You’ve heard that exercise is good for you, and you already know it can help you get in shape or stay in peak physical health. Regular exercise is also great for your mental health, as the exertion from exercise provides natural stress relief.

But did you know the positive effects of exercise can include reducing cravings and helping with withdrawal symptoms? It’s true.

Curb Cravings With Exercise

Exercise takes your mind off cravings and can be the best cure for boredom. For some people, alcohol addiction or drug use used to be part of their weekly or daily routine. Replacing these habits with healthy exercise routines can be like behavioral therapy.

It’s why it’s useful in many recovery programs. Signing up for an exercise class provides great accountability to show up.

Daily Routines Promote Accountability

When you make exercise a part of your routine, it promotes holding yourself accountable. Each day you show up for an exercise program is another day you keep a promise you made to yourself.

Some people sign up for group exercise programs because the accountability motivates them, feels empowering, and boosts self-confidence.

Exercise Releases Endorphins — The Natural High

Exercise is known to release endorphins in the body. Did you know these are the same endorphins released with drugs or alcohol? When endorphins are released through exercise, you’re relearning how to regulate brain chemistry.

This affects your mood and delivers good feelings that can feel like a high but achieved in a healthy, natural way.

Exercise Boosts Immunity

Substance abuse takes a toll on your body and your immune system. Exercise can help to counter this and can boost your immune system.

Exercise helps your immune system to function better as a whole, and as a result, your body can fight off viruses more efficiently as a result of regular exercise. Your immunity is also impacted by the amount of quality sleep you get. You can start to sleep better when you exercise, which affects your overall well-being.

Exercise can be beneficial when you’re in recovery, and when you make it a habit, you’ll begin to reap the benefits of increased energy, a boost in your self-esteem, and more!

Combining Exercise With Treatment

Addiction treatment has many facets, and different things work for different people. Combining strategies in a multi-faceted approach often yields a high success rate. After all, people aren’t one-dimensional, so their treatment plan shouldn’t be either.

This is why recovery centers usually combine various aspects of treatment, such as behavioral therapy, an exercise program, and community support. Whether you choose an in-patient treatment center, an outpatient treatment center, or an on-demand support group app like Sober Sidekick, combining strategies to get or stay sober will increase your chances of success and reduce the chance of relapse.

Addiction is multi-faceted, and getting to the root cause is essential. Sometimes mental health issues need to be addressed in tandem with substance abuse. Your wellness must be viewed holistically. Combining exercise with other treatment plans can only help you, regardless of your personal situation and challenges.

Getting Started With Exercise

When you’re in recovery from addiction, you’re tasking your body and mind with a lot. The truth is that it takes energy to get sober and recover from addiction.

Whether you’re in recovery from alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or substance abuse of any kind, your body and mind are healing from addiction. We’ve already covered exercise’s benefits when recovering from a substance abuse disorder, but where do you start?

Start With 10 Minutes of Daily Exercise

Exercise doesn’t have to mean sweating it out at a 90-minute, heart-pumping spin class. If that’s your thing, by all means, get your spin on!

But exercise can be intimidating for some people if they’ve never incorporated it into their life or for a while. You can start slow with an exercise routine; it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

The good news is even 10 minutes of daily exercise can make a positive difference in your well-being and has lasting health benefits. For optimal health benefits, experts recommend 150 minutes of exercise weekly.

Work Up to Daily Recommendations

Luckily, there’s a type of exercise for just about anyone, and the recommended amount breaks down to just 30 minutes five times weekly.

Before you embark on an exercise program, it’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider and let them know your plans to start an exercise routine. They may have some tips or even offer free resources to patients.

What Are the Best Exercises During Addiction Recovery?

The best types of exercise during recovery from addiction are the ones you enjoy and will stick to for the long haul. Don’t start taking tennis lessons if you don’t enjoy it. The latest high-intensity cardio class won’t do any good if you go twice. Find an exercise you like!

There are so many different ways to get your body moving; it’s a good idea to experiment with various kinds of exercise until you find one that feels right and that you actually enjoy.

Do you hate the treadmill? No problem — there are many options for making physical activity part of your week. Some activities are a form of exercise but may not be the first thing you think of.

No matter your fitness level, check out this list of ideas to get you started:

  • Rock Climbing — indoor or outdoor

  • Weightlifting — pump iron at the gym, or get a few barbells for home

  • Shoot Hoops — find a local court or join a recreational basketball league

  • Kickboxing — blow off some steam in an on-demand class

  • Take the Stairs — challenge yourself to take the stairs instead of the elevator

  • Walk More — walk or park farther away when running errands to get in some steps

  • Dance — turn on your favorite music and get some aerobic exercise

  • Yoga — strike a pose and find some inner calm while burning calories

  • Gardening — get some fresh air while planting and pruning

Finding an activity you like is the key to sticking with an exercise program. One benefit of joining a rec league or a gym is the social benefit of being around people that engage in healthy habits. Recovering in isolation is a challenging road to addiction recovery — in fact, we believe community and connection are essential.


Exercise can be a tremendous help with addiction recovery — it has both mental and physical health benefits. Maintaining an exercise routine can curb cravings, boost your energy levels, and help you start daily routines to promote accountability.

When you exercise, you release endorphins that help to regulate your body and mood naturally. Combining exercise with other treatments can help you achieve your goals and help your body recover holistically.

You can start an exercise program today by being active for just 10 minutes. As you build stamina and get used to the habit of an exercise routine, try new physical activities to find one that you’ll commit to as a lifestyle in the long run.

For additional support, download the free Sober Sidekick App today.


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