How Exercise Helps in Recovering from Addiction

Exercise is a big part of staying sober and clean

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All health benefits of exercise aside, exercise most of all teaches addicts how to improve their lifestyle. Even if you’re out of shape (so much so that getting off couches is an exercise), any form of movement is better than none. You don’t even have to leave your home – meditation, yoga and dynamic stretches can all be performed in your living room. Here are several ways exercise can help the addiction recovery process.

Sleep Quality

Problems sleeping are a common story in recovery. Sleep deprivation isn’t fun by any means because it has a lot to do with health disorders. Whether you have problems getting to sleep, staying asleep or are nodding off in the middle of the day, everybody can be helped by regularly exercising. This is because exercise alters our body temperature. It is highest following exercise and lowest during sleeping hours. During the hours following exercise, the body will cool itself down naturally more faster. This process means you will be able to fall asleep much easier.

Stress Reduction

There are a lot of street names for drugs, and a lot of them help remove stress. Hence an addiction to them. Luckily, it’s a time-tested fact that exercise reduces stress. When we exercise, we’re depleting our storage of cortisol – the stress hormone. This promotes relaxation and clear, rational thinking. Even if you’re out of shape, any form of movement is better than nothing. You don’t even have to leave your home – meditation, yoga and dynamic stretches can all be performed in your living room. The less stressed you are, the less we rely on drinking and drugs to de-stress ourselves.  

Provide Structure

Making an exercise routine helps form structure in your life. Going through my own recovery period was a lot easier once I made a habit of exercising every other day. I would wake up at 7AM, guzzle a liter of coffee, then go out for a 10 minute run followed by a series of burpees. The principle applies to early birds and night owls: creating a routine that you stick to builds self-discipline and willpower. Two traits that are sorely (and disappointingly) lacking in a lot of people today.

Brain Repair

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder revealed that aerobic exercise—such as cycling—protects the brain from drug/alcohol abuse damaging our brain’s white matter. White matter is responsible for linking our brain cells together; when they are damaged, those cells are broken. Certain drugs, such as methamphetamine, also reduces our motivation, attention and reward senses in our brains. Exercise helps the body create a compound (called BDNF) which encourages nerve cell growth to reverse the damages done by drugs.


Your body will take some time to heal. Exercise inspires positivity – whether you’re in recovery or not. It is a widely proven scientific fact that regular exercise makes you happier. This happiness will help shift your perception about life matters and struggles, and about yourself. With Spring fast approaching in some parts of the world, getting outside and taking walks every day can do great things for your positivity.


As our lives adjust a life without substances, seeing recovery improvement does take time. Even though exercise is a valuable part of recovery, the process does take a few days and weeks to see results. Persevere. In the meantime, look for exercises you will actually enjoy doing. Walking, hiking, biking or swimming are all fun choices to try.

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