How to incorporate exercise into addiction recovery

contributed by Jason Lewis - strongwell.org

Photo by Unsplash


Overcoming drug or alcohol addiction requires considerable willpower and positive action. Often, those who have struggled with addiction find exercise to be a powerful outlet that challenges and strengthens them both physically and mentally, which is a boon when traveling the path to sobriety.

While exercise isn’t necessarily a perfect replacement for addiction therapy, it’s proven to be an incredible supplement that provides lifelong benefits.


Know How It Helps

Knowing why something is important to your recovery helps sustain your determination when times get tough. Studies have shown that those who struggle with addiction may be less inclined to use when they are committed to an exercise routine. Though it’s not exactly clear why, there is evidence that the endorphins released during exercise (also known as a runner’s high) can mimic the euphoric feeling one encounters when using drugs or alcohol. Increased investment in one’s body towards something that can work for you and not against you may also play a part.


Choose Activities You’ll Enjoy

Starting an exercise routine shouldn’t be something you dread. If you’re hoping to incorporate exercise into your life to boost your recovery, you want to choose activities that are appealing to you. Exercise can be so much more than running on a treadmill or lifting weights, although those activities are excellent choices for those who enjoy them.


Exercise can also mean taking up cycling or swimming if you prefer activities that can be done on your own. You could join a local league and play football, volleyball or rugby if you enjoy group activities. Yoga is also a very accessible workout, and it’s great for those at any level of fitness and can be practiced in the comfort of your home to the benefit of both mind and body.


Create a Sustainable Routine

Exercise should be done frequently - the Mayo Clinic recommends 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week. To ensure your routine isn't boring and doesn't overwhelm you, create a schedule in which you enjoy different activities on different days. Maybe Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you cycle. Saturday you play in a local league and Sunday you go hiking with a friend or your family. Give yourself variety so that you don’t burn out doing the same exercise over and over and benefit from working out different muscle groups and areas of the body. Don’t be afraid to make changes and try new activities when you become tired of one. The goal is to sustain a healthy exercise routine, and you are far more likely to keep it up if it’s something you enjoy.


Keep Track of Your Workouts

Fitness trackers are a wonderful way to stay committed to working out. Seeing your efforts translated into calories burned can be hugely motivating, and having goals to reach during your workouts can help you keep on track.


Tools such as Fitbits and Apple Watches can monitor a number of health and activity factors, including steps, heart rate, sleep patterns and more. You can also use your smartphone to track activity, or simply use an armband to keep it with you while you work out. There are many sleek and low-profile options available now suited to every style.

Incorporating an exercise routine into your recovery is a smart step in the pursuit of clean living and better health. Science supports it, and you can choose something fun and sustainable that you can track to help keep you motivated to achieve your goals.

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