Exercise and Addiction Recovery: The Importance of Fitness in Recovery

Exercise and addiction recovery go hand in hand. Read on to learn about the benefits of exercise in recovery.

Early recovery is a challenging but rewarding time. You’re making important lifestyle changes, working on taking good care of yourself, and practicing the coping skills you learned in treatment. One of the best things you can do in recovery is get regular exercise. The connection between exercise and addiction recovery is an important one. Here are the benefits of exercise in recovery.

It reduces stress.

Stress is a major relapse trigger, and reducing your stress is an important focus in recovery. Exercise reduces stress hormone levels in your blood and stimulates the production of brain chemicals that promote calm and relaxation. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, exercise not only reduces stress on the spot, but it actually increases your tolerance for stress later on.

It improves your mood.

Physical activity and substance abuse abstinence are closely related, largely due to the impact of exercise on your mental health. The “feel-good” chemicals released by the brain during exercise help to improve your mood, reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. In fact, a Duke University study found that a half hour of exercise three days a week reduces symptoms of depression as effectively as antidepressants. It also helps prevent depression from returning.

It restores your health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stresses the importance of exercise for improving your overall health and fitness level and for preventing disease. For the best benefits, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of exercise each week, which translates to a half hour a day, five days a week.

It helps combat cravings.

Cravings often occur for months after quitting drugs or alcohol, and coping with cravings is a major focus in treatment. A study by Vanderbilt University found that exercise and addiction recovery go hand in hand. That’s because exercise goes a long way toward reducing cravings. In the study, heavy marijuana users ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes, five days a week. After just two weeks, subjects reported a 50 percent reduction in cravings. Researchers also found another important connection between exercise and addiction recovery: All of the participants in the study reported decreased their marijuana use as a direct result of the exercise.

It improves sleep.

Self-care is essential in recovery, especially in the early weeks and months. Adequate, high quality sleep is one of the most important aspects of self-care. A lack of sleep reduces your overall sense of wellbeing, and it affects your mood and thought and behavior patterns. Exercise improves your quality of sleep and can combat sleep problems like insomnia and waking up at night. The link between exercise and addiction recovery in terms of sleep has been shown through research. One study by the National Sleep Foundation found that people who get 150 minutes of exercise each week fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, have a higher quality of sleep, and enjoy more energy during the day.

It fosters other healthy lifestyle choices.

Physical activity and substance abuse are negatively correlated. Exercise makes you feel good, and when you feel good, you’re less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors and make poor lifestyle choices. In fact, exercise promotes feelings of resilience and personal strength, and it often leads to making other healthy lifestyle choices, like eating a healthy diet and getting a good night’s sleep. It also improves your self-confidence, which goes a long way in recovery.

The Best Exercise for Recovery

Studies on exercise and addiction recovery show that the kind of exercise you do doesn’t really matter, as long as you do it consistently most days of the week. Do activities you enjoy, whether that’s biking, skating, running, playing tennis, or working hard in the garden. If you enjoy group exercise, join a gym or a sports league. If you prefer a half hour solo walk after dinner, that works, too. As long as you’re moving your body and getting your heart rate up, it counts as exercise, and it can improve your chances of successful long-term recovery.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.