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Importance of Exercise in Recovery

Can Exercise Help in Treatment and Recovery?

An effective treatment program for addiction is crucial if the goal is to escape the downward spiral an addiction can cause.

Getting over an addiction isn’t simply going to a treatment center and undergoing the program they recommend. That’s the first step. The next step is to help an addict recover, and this isn’t easy.

Recovery from addiction is a long and drawn out process that requires different methods to be successful.

Most of the methods used in treating addictions are mental or psychological and require the help of therapists and councilors who are trained experts in working with addicts.

However, there are physical aspects of every successful treatment program that are necessary for it to succeed.

Good quality sleep is necessary to allow the body to rebuild itself during the rest time.  Hydration is critical and drinking adequate amounts of water will assist the body to detoxify and get rid of impurities and toxins.


Diet is critical.  We must eat a nutritious diet for our bodies to have the energy and stamina to undergo the stress of a treatment and recovery program.

We wrote about Healthy Eating and Diets for addiction recovery and treatment and offer a lovely free EBook on that page.  The article is very helpful, and the book is filled with critical information on diets and healthy eating in addiction recovery.

Another crucial component of the physical part of a good recovery and treatment program would be exercise.


There are many reasons for this. Here are the main ones in short order:

  1. Studies have been done to show that physical exercise increases the odds of success for addiction sufferers who practice regular exercise.

  2. Exercise assists in helping a person feel a superior sense of well being as well as overall pleasure. Exercise stimulates the nerve centers, increases metabolism, and helps in the releasing of endorphins.

When someone is in an addiction treatment center, their recovery program will be disciplined and rigid. Achieving success is going to be tough. It will take lots of energy and hard work.

A person who has been abusing alcohol or drugs for a long period is going to be accustomed to the chemical high they experienced.

This high can be strong, and it can make a person crave more of that feeling or high.

Helping to re-establish a recovering addict’s ability to experience pleasure through regular means is the strongest benefit exercise can offer.

Exercise helps to raise a person’s mood while they continue to move forward in getting past their addictions.


Why addiction and recovery treatment centers believe in exercise to help patients

Addiction and recovery treatment centers understand that exercise is one of the healthy and rewarding ways a person can relieve stress. Stress is going to be a constant problem for people who will periodically have cravings for their addiction.

Exercise also helps break up the boredom of constant study and therapy. It helps patients sleep better and gives them a strong appetite and a reason to eat a healthy diet of good fresh foods.

Are specific methods of exercise used to help addicts in recovery?

It doesn’t matter what the exercise is. Partaking in any physical exercise will lead to an increase in mood as well as a releasing of endorphins that will help a person to feel better.

Exercise will assist in achieving a quality relaxation, getting rid of negative energies, and providing a recovering addict with something positive on which to focus their attention.

Specific benefits of exercise in helping people recovering from drugs/alcohol addictions

  1. Exercise is going to help lower not only cravings in general but also the intensity of cravings.

  2. It will help to release endorphins, which is a pleasure-related chemical that becomes hard to release through other means with sustained drug/alcohol abuse.

  3. It will help to take the nervous energy away, which can build up when a person is trying to not think about feeding their addiction.

  4. Exercise will lead to the recovering addict feeling a greater sense of confidence, which will make it easier to resist the urge to relapse.

  5. Exercise will help to increase overall health, which may have deteriorated due to sustained drug/alcohol abuse.

  6. It helps a recovering addict build discipline by creating a sense of structure that they may not have been accustomed to previously.

  7. Exercise as a part of addiction recovery will not only lead to a superior quality of life but will help to boost energy levels as well.

Aerobic exercise is the most beneficial form of exercise for a recovering addict.

Aerobic exercise is one that gets your heart pumping and your lungs working strong. It gets your blood moving and improves your body’s consumption and use of oxygen.

Aerobics are great if done in moderation. Limit your workouts to ten minute periods and vary the intensity from moderate to vigorous to slow down and relax. Don’t overdo it!


Some of the best Aerobic exercises to help with addiction recovery

Jogging or Running

Whether out in the open or on a treadmill running is one of the best exercises to help with addiction recovery.

One of the main reasons for this is because of the way a person can vary the degree of intensity and do it for a sustained period.

Running or jogging is a good way for a person to settle down and release negative energy while building the body and improving health.

There are many benefits of running. The main results for addicts are improving sleep, releasing stress, and improving appetite.


Yoga may not be very aerobic, but it can be a powerful and useful exercise for recovering addicts because it not only gives the body a strong workout but also includes powerful meditations.

Yoga helps a person focus on the here and now and makes it easier to eliminate anxiety and stress.

Yoga is very useful in helping a recovering addict get past nagging temptations.


Lifting weights as an exercise is very aerobic and a good exercise method to use for recovering addicts.

Lifting weights works on a psychological level as well as a physical one giving the recovering addict a means to expel anger type energy and frustration and direct their focus on their recovery.

It helps to build strength mentally and physically, which is required to fight off temptations in the future.



Swimming, if available, can be very useful for a recovering addict that has some form of physical disability, discomfort, or body damage.

The absence of the pull of gravity while working out in the water gives one an opportunity to achieve a nice aerobic workout without the physical abuse to the body that most aerobic exercises provide.

Water also has a calming effect that can help a person relax which is important for those in recovery from substance abuse.

Martial arts

There are many different forms of martial arts that would help recovering addicts, but some are more soothing and calming than others.

Tai Chi, for example, would be one of the best exercises to take part in, because it can be utilized by anyone no matter their current level of experience. It’s a good fit for beginners to enjoy the martial arts.

Tai Chi is also helpful due to the meditative discipline that comes with it.

People in a treatment center where this exercise is available would benefit from the practice due to the discipline and mental concentration.

Power Walking or Hiking.


One of the most effective aerobic exercises recovering addicts can partake in would be walking or hiking. Walking is much less stressful on the body, and it’s easier for most people to participate.

One can walk outdoors in any weather if desired. Walking on an indoor track or school track can be boring, but it still provides a beneficial workout.

Hiking outdoors in nature provides the benefit of fresh air and scenery and is more interesting and enjoyable.

Connecting with nature is extremely therapeutic. Sometimes all it takes is the feeling of the warm sun touching the skin or breathing in some fresh air to boost a person’s spirit and improve their mood.

Group or Team Sports

Recovering addicts are often in a vulnerable state of mind and not very sociable due to their substance abuse.

Being able to join in and draw strength from others in the form of group activity can be the perfect way to get past this vulnerable period.

Here are some of the exercise programs that are perfect for this:

  1. Basketball. A favorite group exercise that will provide a great workout and help instill a sense of belonging and teamwork and help to develop friendships.

  2. Soccer. Powerful aerobic teams exercise if the treatment facility has a field and there are enough players to participate.

  3. Baseball/Softball. If the treatment center has a baseball field or access to one, baseball is a wonderful team sport for all of the reasons already mentioned.

  4. Volleyball. Volleyball is a lot of fun and a very easy group game that can be played with any number of players.

  5. Football (Touch only!) No rough stuff! Football can be a very aggressive game, but it provides all of the benefits of a good therapeutic and rehabilitative exercise.

These sports are going to require different levels of endurance, but as long as the competition is friendly anyone can partake in them.

The team element is perfect for those recovering addicts who suffered due to being isolated and withdrawn. These programs also help those who might have never been good socially to come out of their shell and open up a little bit.

This social skill will be needed in the outside world to get the sustained support needed to stay away from substance abuse.

Each recovery and treatment center is different. Some might have gyms or workout rooms or just a simple room set aside for simple meditation or basic floor exercises.

The probability is high that certain core exercise programs are offered at any USA treatment center, and usually there will be staff assigned to help with exercise and fitness requirements for the patients or residents.


What treatment centers recommend and what the majority of them offer to recovering addicts.

If you’re a recovering addict, you want to be sure a wide range of different exercise options will be offered at the treatment center you choose.

The fitness programs offered vary by the type of center and their facility.

High end or Executive treatment centers.

High end or Executive treatment centers are expensive. They can be like a hotel, or possibly a resort and will offer a wide range of exercise programs. They will usually have well-equipped gyms, a swimming pool, and a basketball court.

These high-end centers will have qualified and trained specialists on staff to assist residents with their exercise and fitness workouts.

Basic and Traditional Recovery and Treatment Centers.

The majority of addiction treatment and recovery centers are going to focus on exercise programs that are traditional and mostly in-house programs.

More advanced or exotic options are sometimes offered depending on the center and their facilities and staff


This exercise could include using free weights or universal equipment.

Basic group exercise

These might not require any equipment beyond a room or location and a mat. It could include a yoga program or just simple calisthenics. A lot of addiction and recovery centers offer this because it’s the best way to engage everyone.

Outdoor activities

These activities can range from biking, hiking, running/jogging, and team sports as mentioned previously.

Getting outside (assuming the weather permitted this) is a perfect way to help patients not feel cramped or confined.

Taking the first steps to exercise in an addiction treatment and recovery center

  1. Choose exercises that you enjoy and ones that you will likely continue to use upon completion of your treatment program.

  2. Try to include yourself in group activities. The group participation is a great way to ensure that you’ll get involved and continue with the activity. It’s a great way to make new friends and build a social network.

  3. Try some different activities to break up the boredom.

  4. Create an exercise schedule and keep it faithfully.

  5. You might be out of shape and not used to exercise. Ease into it and move slowly. Build up your mental and physical condition to experience effective and enjoyable exercise.

At most treatment centers there will be a specialist and trainer who you can talk to to get a feel for your condition and abilities.  They can advise you about the programs offered and help you to get involved.

Be sure to include your exercise program as part of your aftercare plans. Don’t lose what you gained during treatment!

Getting Help

A quality recovery and treatment center will understand the value of exercise in the recovery process and can advise you and assist you in finding the best exercise for you and determine the availability of various programs.

The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment.  Call anytime.

Chateau Recovery Center 375 Rainbow Lane
Midway, UT 84049, USA
If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.


A powerful testimony of the value in exercise while recovering from an addiction. Watch this, please!

Working Out, Running, or Exercising After Getting Clean From Opiate Addiction

Most people who are opiate addicts tend to “hang out.” Sitting on the couch watching TV, eating unhealthy fast foods, and not taking care of one’s body is common for opiate addicts. Once you are on the path to recovery, working out can be a huge benefit to your life. Not only will it help you to recover faster, but increasing your heart rate for 30 minutes a day can add years and health to your life. When I quit opiates, running became my new addiction. I ran ultra-marathons and pushed myself to levels I never thought imaginable. If you are going through opiate withdrawals and are getting clean, add some exercise to your life. It will help improve your health and make you feel better. Remember to take it slow when you begin. Set small goals for yourself and stick to it.

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