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Healing from Within: The Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery.

When it comes to addiction recovery, there’s nothing quite like working up a good sweat. Your body has amazing healing powers that grow stronger when you’re in motion, natural capabilities that are activated by an elevated heart rate as well as brain chemistry and cognitive activity, which are stimulated by exercise. Physical activity is a much better alternative to isolating yourself, cut off from the outside, obsessing about your addiction and the cravings that threaten your sobriety. Exercise keeps your mind and body occupied; it’s a healthy way to spend your time rather than focusing on negative thoughts and behaviors.


If attitude is important to addiction recovery, then exercise is especially important, and one of the best ways to maintain a positive mindset. Exercise activates endorphins and neurotransmitters in the brain that make you feel good. It’s in this way that exercise gives you a reward for your hard work. You feel good and positive about the future, and an overall sense of well-being encourages you to continue exercising.

Dopamine, called the “feel-good” chemical, is linked to motivation, which means that your brain learns to anticipate the good feelings you get from working out. Before you know it, you’re not only feeling good, you’re looking good, too. Oxytocin, a hormone associated with social bonding, is also activated in the brain by exercise. Its effects are so powerful that a synthetic version of oxytocin is frequently prescribed to people who suffer from antisocial disorder.

Forms of exercise

There are many kinds of exercise that can bolster your addiction recovery program. You can pursue the physical activity you like best and which gives you the best results. The only proviso is that you do so consistently. The key to exercising during addiction recovery is consistency, keeping up with it so that you develop an all-around healthy routine that allows you to better manage stressors, triggers and cravings. Rock climbing is a popular activity among many people in addiction recovery, and it’s often used in wilderness therapy, which combines exposure to nature with education in helping people overcome the effects of addiction.

Team activities

People in recovery often benefit from the competitiveness and collaboration they experience in team sports like volleyball and basketball. There’s the rush of competition and contributing to a team, and the satisfaction of succeeding as part of a group effort. It’s a powerfully compelling feeling.

Singular exercise

Independent forms of exercise, such as martial arts, are helpful for individuals who may be introverted and feel constrained about taking part in more social types of exercise. Learning a martial art teaches discipline and imparts self-confidence. It’s often a preferable option for individuals who don’t enjoy sports or who don’t feel comfortable being part of a team.


Yoga is another physical activity that can help individuals who don’t enjoy exercise, or who have some constraining condition that prevents them from engaging in intense physical activity. Yoga is a discipline that enhances flexibility and helps to focus the mind. It can be very effective at helping to alleviate stress, anxiety and insomnia, symptoms that are often manifested by individuals suffering the effects of substance abuse. Best of all, it reduces the stressors that produce cravings for drugs or alcohol, and helps you cope with triggers that could lead to a relapse.

Set yourself up for success

A key component of sticking with your fitness routine is to find solutions that make it easy or that motivate you to keep moving. Commit to shopping for whole foods that offer all of the nutrients and fuel your body needs to be active. Start a daily journal listing your habits and what you accomplished or felt that day. Create a solid bedtime routine where you get up and go to be the same time every day to ensure you get a good night’s rest. Treat yourself to quality sportswear, splurge on a pair of AirPods, or buy the fancy yoga mat you’ve always wanted. While each of these efforts singularly can be beneficial, you’ll reap the most rewards when you combine them together.

Your body possesses a remarkable ability to heal itself. Sometimes, it just needs some stimulation to activate those capabilities. Exercise benefits you physically as well as mentally, providing the kind of encouragement you need to maintain an exercise regimen.

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This post was written by our guest blogger, Jason Lewis.

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