The Benefits of Exercise after Addiction

Getting regular exercise can improve anyone’s life in numerous ways, but people in recovery may have even more to gain from a little extra fitness. While helping addicts maintain sobriety while in recovery, it can also help their bodies heal the damage done from drug or alcohol abuse.

Exercise After Addiction
Even a small amount of regular exercises, such as 30 minutes of light walking three times per week, can help an addict maintain sobriety by reducing cravings and use, helping to replace unhealthy habits and relationships, reducing overall stress and fatigue, and re-instilling a sense of taking care of one’s self — something which long-time addicts may have turned a blind eye to.

Most obviously, exercise helps to repair the body and helps it heal by encouraging new muscle tissue growth and improving the body’s overall physiology. Less obviously but equally beneficial during recovery, exercise also encourages new brain tissue growth and repairs brain damage; in particular, serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain which may have been damaged from prolonged drug or alcohol abuse can actually be reversed.

Many people who exercise report a sort of “high” they get as a result of that exercise. This feeling is a result of these natural chemicals in the brain being released in healthy amounts which can help addicts feel better emotionally and physically, and improve their overall state of mind while in recovery.

Exercise after addiction can help people in recovery to restore their bodies and brains, and it can also help psychologically. In fact, exercise has been found so useful to addicts in recovery that many treatment programs have begun to implement this strategy and encouraging patients to maintain regular exercise after they are discharged.

  • 52 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • Sound advice. Exercise has benefits even for the average person who isn't dealing with substance abuse or recovery from such abuse. For recovering individuals, exercise is a good release for their minds, and it helps their body regain its strength that was lost. Exercise does provide that "high" that you can't get from substances or other activities, which is why it's so important to exercise frequently during the recovery process. 
  • I am a huge fan of exercise, I think that it's good in most situations, but after addiction we must look for an adequate exercise for our condition, we don't want an exercise that drain us or depress us. 
  • Exercise indeed does wonders for the body.  In the past, there is a perception that the only people who exercise are those who are quite vain and would like to look slim all the time.  Right now, this perception is totally difference.  Exercise is seen as a necessary habit, mainly because it helps facilitate all the other functions of the body and tones your body for day to day activities.  What's also good is that if you're dealing with an addiction, exercise will more or less keep you busy all the time and that's good enough to distract you from whatever is causing your addiction.
  • I agree that exercise can help someone trying to regain their vitality. Walking, as you mentioned also does my mind wonders. I can think about all sorts of things, and have wonderful reflections. I rarely think about anything negative when I am walking, probably because my body is benefitting as well as my mind.
  • Exercise most definitely does wonders to your body and mind. I've also noticed that my reaction time is a lot faster from exercising. My willpower to finish a task has improved as well. Obviously there are a lot of physical perks that exercising does for you but the most important factors to me is that your mind gets a lot sharper and your personality becomes stronger.
  • Exercise helps a lot of people because it makes them feel good and gives them something to looks forward to. It also helps regaining vitality and your body in general will feel much better. I believe exercising regularly is one of the things that most people forget about.
  • Its great to hear the success people have had with a bit of exercise. It is amazing how getting some fresh air and our bodies moving has a positive impact on our health. We really are made to move and unforunately how current society avoids this. 
  • Exercise has been one of the saving graces in my own recovery. Setting aside the obvious health benefits it instills an over all sense of well being and peace of mind. Research has proven that exercise for an hour a day has the same if not better results in mood and well being as taking anti-depressants such as prozac and other SSRI's. (However do not stop any of these medications and simply start exercising without consulting your medical "professional" first.) It not only helps me stay in action and moving in the right direction. It also keeps me motivated in other areas of my life. The routine of going to the gym matriculates into other areas of my life, such as sticking with something despite the uncomfortability in it, as well as many other unforeseen benefits.  Routine is such a major component to instilling consistency and healthier living habits, and for us addicts that is of paramount importance.
  • The more fit I get, the more my body feels like a totally different body. When I exercise, I don't want to negate the progress I've made by eating unhealthy foods. Exercising encourages me to take better care of my body.
  • They say that exercise is not for everybody. It depends upon the health condition of an individual if what exercise regimen will be good for them. It also depends upon your age, if you are just a kid, a teenager, an adult or in your senior years old. And for those who had been recovering from illness or a certain addiction there are also exercises that is suitable for this kind of condition. Whatever it is find an exercise program that will really makes you fit and will give the right benefits for the health condition of your body.
  • Exercising is nearly good for everything, really it's very healhy and helps a lot if you're going through a crisis, after a some sort of addiction, especially running because you don't need any special equipment you just need an hour of free time every two or three days.
  • I agree with the above posters on the fact exercise plays a great deal of importance when getting clean. I took my addiction to drugs and turned it into an addiction to being healthy. I figured a natural addiction is better than a chemical one. I have started eating chicken, turkey and fish a lot, as well as, veggies and fruits. When I was first getting sober I used to exercise or run a lot. I still do, it helps some with energy levels and overall wellness. :)
  • Exercise stimulates the body to the stress hormone cortisol, which activates separation alert mechanism in the brain. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bedtime or working out earlier in the day.
  • I can definitely agree with this, I know after I started my journey of recovery I had many problems trying to decide on what it is that I need to do to stay calm and collected and not turn back in my life. I took up running every morning which really helped to keep my mind going as that's what I focused on during the day. 
  • Exercising also keeps your mind off a relapse. Even a simple walk around the corner can go along way!
  • You brought up a great point about reinstating a sense of taking care of oneself through exercise. I know with recovery, many people have not taken care of their bodies, and exercise is a great gateway to taking care of oneself in a variety of different ways! 
  • Exercising has been really beneficial for me, it causes me to be naturally up. Normally, I exercise 5 days a week and it's kind of a routine that I enjoy because hard exercise makes me breathe even more and feel alive. I love going through the challenge of completeting an hour each day of exercise and feel like I've achieved something. I also know it releases a lot of endorphins and healthy things in the bible that cause an up. Also adrenaline is a part that I like.
  • Replacing a bad habit with a good one is always a winner plan. It helps the mind and body recover. In a way, those with habits they had to quit could say they are routine people - because a habit is something they did regularly. So to replace one routine with another should be quite easy. And the release of seratonin to the brain can help tremendously. 
  • Exercise is by far the best way to become healthy and manetane sobriety.  It keeps you fit, it keeps your ming preoccupied, and it get the blood flowing. 
  • I love exercising because it helps me relieve some of my anger and anxiousness. Also, I feel really good about myself after I work out. I agree with some of the commenters here, it is always good to replace bad habits with good habits. I was watching a show the other day, where the guy said that going to the gym is a habit. Once you start you build a habit that your body craves if you stop going ("addicted to the gym"). I think it is because when you are working out your body releases endorphins which make your brain feel good. 
  • There are so many benefits to exercising, especially to avoid backstepping into addiction
    1. Better self-esteem - If you look better, you feel better.  If you have more energy you feel better
    2.  Time - One of the biggest reasons people slip up is because of boredom and having too much extra time. Any type of hobby is desirable, exercise is just one option.
    3.  Sleep pattern -  Exercise and burning energy will help you sleep better at night and keep you on a normal daily rhythm.  
  • I remember finishing my first 5k morning run. It was such an achievement for me. It was a proud moment for me knowing that I was able to achieve it because I had the guts to quit.
  • I think exercise if great for helping give up any addiction. For my personally its a great distraction from something I want and I always feel great when I done. In the long run, I look healthier, I feel better and I no longer to turn to the bad habits I used to.
  • Exercising does offer so many benefits, and not all just physical, but mentally as well! The feeling of accomplishment,improving self esteem, and sometimes just clearing your mind. I believe exercise is a must for every recovery plan.
  • @dominica Oh Yes. I even love the adrenaline that it gives and I'm really happy exercising actually exists and I have found it to be really helpful after recovery and it really helps with anxiety and depression.
  • Thanks for compiling all of this information and for passing it on to us.

     I myself have not been exercising for the past couple of months and it's  becoming of great concern to me. I find myself gaining weight. This is unfavorable because I know that if I stay fat and stuck in the house, then I might just regress to taking drugs

  • @dominica haha, that made me laugh.
  • I am a firm beleiver that exercise can help someone who is in the process of quitting.  I actually plan to start exercising with him once we move in together.  I am hop0eful he will join me when I go for a while and maybe once things get better financially we might join a gym so we can exercise together. Hopefully all that will motivate him even more to quit smoking.

    I plan to get the patches for him and a book no how to quit smoking, I already got a nice title in mind :)  Allen Carr's “Easy Way to Stop Smoking”  ;)
  • Exercise naturally and positively alters the brain chemistry so as for those recovering in addiction, exercises gives a natural high as it releases endorphins into the system.
  • Yes, Exercise have an important role in rehabilitation. I have been addicted to alcohol for 4 years, and the continuous usage of it caused me several health problems. and I had joined in an addiction treatment centre in British Columbia for a rehabilitation. Along with their therapy sessions, yoga and meditation they had also encouraged us to do several exercises as a part of treatment. It had really helped us for an easy recovery.
  • Very good reasons for anyone to exercise, especially recovering addicts. It has positive effects on both the physical and psychological aspects. It’s worth it to find the types of exercise that work best for you and make them regular habits.
  • Exercise is great, but one bit of caution. It can be taken to extremes like all other things. Not trying to be a party pooper but those of us who have what some like to call 'addictive personalities' can make anything - no matter how healthy - into an addiction. I've done it myself with exercise, using it to replace other addictions and then becoming addicted to exercising until I injured myself.
    All things in moderation is my point :)
  • Wow, great post for all of us looking for a new hobby to use on a day to day basis! Thank you for all that you do!
  • @Lol That can be true, and that’s part of why it’s wise to start small and follow a plan. There may still be a risk that one will take it to an extreme, but I think it lessens that risk a bit.
  • Starting jogging right after I quit smoking was the best thing I've done in the past. I plan to do the same now (because I am trying to quit again). It's pretty hard at first because your body is still rusty from all the smoking, but after a week or two you can run pretty long distances without getting very tired. The most important aspect of this, is to keep doing it. It helps you regain your health and keeps your mind busy.
  • Ever since I started exercising, my addiction to over eating had improved by a great amount. I used to be the kind of person who did not care about how many calories something had or what they could do to my body but since I find out I had high cholesterol levels, I knew it was time to change. I found it very difficult to change my eating habits because even though I did not want to accept it, I was addicted to eating more than I should and what I ate was almost never healthy. Ever since I started exercising, my life has changed and my eating habit has also improved and I am eating a healthy diet that had helped me lose weight. To sum everything up if it was not for starting to exercise, I would probably not even be living right now, and my life would of not been as great as it is now.
  • There are so many benefits of exercise when it comes to getting your mind and your body in shape, and when you have been through the journey of addiction it is definitely worth it, as it means that you can focus on getting yourself better. Exercise does, in general, make you feel much better about yourself, and it can get you in a more capable position to quit what it is that you're addicted to. So I would definitely recommend it, and it has been proven to have affects on the body which mean that you can look forward to a much happier and clean style of life.
  • I've recently started going to the gym again and it seems that along with a proper diet, it helps me control my nicotine craving, I started smoking very few cigarettes a day, and lighter ones. The one I used to smoke were about 0.8 nicotine per cigarette and I would smoke 10 of them a day, right now I smoke about 5 to 8 0.1 nicotine cigarettes a day.
  • Exercising has so many benefits that it is hard to name them all. Replacing a bad habit with a better one is never a bad idea. Instead of eating chips, you decide to opt for those carrot sticks instead. By doing this, you have made yourself a healthier and better person! Of course, you can always indulge every now and then, but it is important to exercise to maintain the healthy lifestyle that most people should have. Exercise more and you WILL feel the difference!
  • I have found that working out has helped out my mother's addiction as she used to be addicted to taking prescription medications. It is hard at first, but letting the person know that you are there for them can help them out. Do not let them go back, and maybe start some hobbies with them to distract their minds. 
  • I know exercise has been an amazing help to me inside of my recovery.  I feel healthier physically and emotionally.  Also I think it is important to challenge yourself (not that quitting isn't challenging enough) but moving that challenge in to another area of your life, like lifting more weight than I did the week before for instance, has been really beneficial for me.  It is helping me form healthy sleeping and eating habits and also It just feels good to do something that is benefiting me for a change!
  • I'm telling you guys, exercise has a major effect in reducing the cravings, thus helping an addicted one recover...going to the gym and getting fit is also another motivation which anyone could use along with the increased appetite that every recovering addict could use. 
  • I think it's because exercising gives us happy hormones. Endorphins. That's why it makes us feel that there's no need to cling on to something that is bad for you. And your body begins to function normally again that's why exercise is a good thing wether or not you've been to substance abuse. I highly encourage people to exercise regularly.
  • Exercise is a great way to occupy the mind. No matter what the exercise is, it will have positive effects on the body.  I find a good workout very therapeutic, and when I am done I feel great. I know I have accomplished something to be proud of.

    I think this should be a staple in any recovery plan.
  • Exercising will contribute greatly to staying on track from an addiction. It helps to release endorphin, but more importantly It improves will power too. It takes a lot of that to even go jogging gym regularly and once you get into this habit it stays on your mind. One good habit promotes others, so if you exercise often you will want to eat fruit and vegetables more often and drink more water etc. This way you will actually want to be more careful of what goes into your body.
  • This was a very useful article. I am glad I have been able to read it. I have always heard of the benefits of some sort of exercise. Of course, I grew up in the generation, one of the last generations to have a lot of exercise. I was physically fit and did not have to worry about health issues. I have been reflecting on areas of my life I have changed since high school and this is one of the biggest areas of my life that has had a big change.
  • The key thing here is not to push it too hard the first couple of times. Doing so can be intimidating and discouraging if they don't do it well so making small lifestyle changes.. like moving around more, instead of lazying around all day can help. Then once they start doing that, you can move on to more structured exercise but still maintaining the gradual increase of exercise.
  • Exercise is beneficial in any circumstance, but I can see where it would be extra beneficial to the recovering addict. It's not only a positive change in their lifestyle, but it's going to really help reconstruct the way you're living. Getting rid of all of the toxicity in your life is the first step, but adding something beneficial like exercise is going to boost everything even more.
  • I think it helps a lot actually.
  • Yes. I myself have been exercising a lot for the last few days. I think I need to reduce it a little bit because I believe my blood pressure is pretty high. There are some benefits that I've heard of and I'm gonna say a bit about that here in a couple of lines.

    It's known to be a good fighter against heart and cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, prevents obesity and some forms of diabetes.

    Studies on the effects of exercise on our psychological health have found that regular physical activity is likely to reduce anxiety, depression and get better at managing stress and the way our body behaves in strong situations that change our moods. It also improves self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Beyond the natural high you get from a good cardio workout, the effects from exercise help with addiction and coping very well! After doing serious interval training (slow/fast, hard/soft) your body doesn't even seem to want drugs. That being said, the high from your body chemistry only lasts so long- so be sure to take time to reflect on how wonderful it feels to not be withdrawing after a workout. Carry that feeling through the day, and make your cardio part of everyday life!
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