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Being physically active has many benefits for your health, especially for those recovering from alcohol or drug abuse. Having a regular exercise routine can help lower stress levels, enhance self-confidence, and increase mental and physical health. While rehabilitation has been proven to be beneficial, it does not guarantee you will always live a sober life. Former addicts who are in the recovery process may struggle in stressful situations, which leads them to turn to drugs to deal with these emotions and cravings. A regular exercise routine can help prevent former addicts from relapsing after drug treatment.

How Does Exercise Help the Recovery Process?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that exercise during drug addiction recovery may help to meet a nicotine addicted-person’s psychosocial and physiological demands more than mere nicotine replacement therapy. (Studies of the benefits of exercise to recovery from other drugs are underway.) Many rehab centers have included physical fitness, such as yoga, as part of addiction treatment programs. Below is a list of how exercise helps the recovery process.

Stress Reducer

Exercise reworks the part of the brain that influences stress and anxiety, and physical fitness is shown to lower stress levels and support people who are becoming more mindful of their mental state. Exercise helps an individual focus on their body movements instead of their stressors. During exercise routines, your brain creates endorphins that help lower pain levels. Endorphins are hormones which trigger positive feelings in the body.

Increases Mental and Physical Health

Consistent exercise routines can help maintain thinking, judgment, and learning skills. Research shows that physical activity can reduce the risk of depression, a mental health condition that could end up as a co-occurring disorder.

Performing muscle-strengthening exercises or aerobic exercises, 3 – 5 days a week and at least 30 – 60 minutes a day, can help you achieve the maximum mental and physical health benefits from exercise.

Reduces the Chance of Weight Gain

Substance use disorders can be linked to an unhealthy weight and lifestyle. Therefore, exercising and a healthy diet can help former addicts maintain or reach a healthy weight. Approximately 80% of those with mental illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia disorder are typically overweight or obese.

Improves Sleep Patterns

Fatigue or not getting enough sleep can lead to a relapse. Creating exercise routines can help increase your quality of sleep by refreshing recuperative developments that re-establish strength and health while sleeping.

A 2011 study published by the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity showed individuals increased sleep quality by 65% when partaking in at least 150 minutes of physical exercise per week.

Common Addiction Recovery Workout Routines

Everyday Americans participate in physical exercise such as walking to and from work or jogging around the block. However, there are several different types of exercise programs, and each has health benefits for those in addiction recovery.


CrossFit is a high-strengthening program that links different exercises, nutrition programs, and communication skills together. Around the United States, many individuals in addiction recovery have benefited from CrossFit to increase their self-confidence, happiness, and self-respect.


Outdoor hiking while taking in nature’s beautiful surroundings, whether in the mountains or in the woods, can help improve anyone’s mental health. For those in addiction recovery in particular, hiking can help boost emotional growth, feelings of accomplishment, self-esteem, and confidence.


Taking a dip in the pool can be relaxing, and you may not even notice you are relieving tension by exercising your joints and muscles. The gentle and cooling water can reduce pain, soreness or body aches caused by withdrawal symptoms.

Team-Affiliated Sports

Team sports can include tennis, soccer, basketball, football or volleyball. Along with physical exercise, participating in sports can benefit those in recovery by helping them create healthy, sober relationships.


Yoga has been shown to lower stress levels, improve self-awareness, and reduce pain. Also, research has shown that yoga can help lower or eliminate drug cravings for those in alcohol or drug addiction recovery.

Other Exercises

Some additional exercises that have health benefits include rock climbing, surfing, weightlifting, biking, snowboarding, boxing and martial arts. It is recommended for those in addiction recovery to mix aftercare treatment programs such as 12-step meetings, group therapy and counseling with exercise. These approaches to recovery help drug addicts learn methods for coping with cravings, avoid relapse, and learn sobriety tips.

Exercise can be extremely beneficial in the recovery process and the maintenance of clean and sober living for addicts. Whether your favorite form of exercise is yoga, sports, or aerobic exercise, staying active can increase your chances of continuing to live a happy and sober life, as well as reduce the chances of relapse.