Rehab 4 Addiction

Addiction recovery is perhaps the most difficult goal you will ever set for yourself. To succeed in your recovery, you must do a great deal more than merely give up using drugs or alcohol.  You must also rebuild your life and set positive goals and create positive habits.

As the English poet John Dryden once said, first you create your habits, and then your habits create you. No other area could this be more apt than addiction recovery.

One of the most effective habits you could establish in your recovery is regular and structured exercise. This helps you to restore your physical health and balance in an area that was probably acutely damaged by your addiction.

For many people in recovery, exercise is a form of therapy. It’s unquestionably a form of self-help that’s cheap and easy to implement. All you need is motivation, the right attitude and a liberal dose of structure. Joining a club associated with your exercise of choice is particularly effective because you are most likely to stick to your exercise when it is conducted in social settings.

Exercise benefits you from both a physical and psychological standpoint. In fact, we feel the psychological benefits derived from exercise often outpace physical benefits.

When you exercise, the brain releases a number of hormones linked to mood such as dopamine and endorphins. It’s thus not difficult to understand why exercise yields so many positive psychological benefits for those who are willing to give it a go.

If you ignore exercise, you truly put your recovery at risk. Exercise affects the mind, body and spirit. Lack of exercise means you are more likely to experience stress and depression, all of which are well-known causes of relapse.

The benefits of exercise for people in recovery

In the UK, many drug and alcohol rehab clinics formally recognise the importance of exercise in helping their clients sustain their recovery once they have left the rehab clinics full-time care. For this reason, rehab clinics have begun to introduce an element of exercise into their aftercare programmes.

When you exercise, the brain releases endorphins. This hormone is known to regulate mood in a positive manner. Endorphin release is pleasurable, and your brain is wired to repeat activities that cause pleasurable feelings. This is how it’s possible for positive addictions to arise in the first place and in a manner that’s akin to how negative addiction arises.

When you regularly exercise, your waistline will reduce. Blood pressure will reduce and you will feel physically stronger. In short, exercise improves your overall level of physical health. The chances of developing life-threatening illnesses decreases and your life expectancy will also increase. You will experience greater levels of energy throughout the day and the quality of your sleep will also improve at night.

Benefits Of Exercise for People In Recovery

Below, we summarise the benefits you will attain for your recovery by investing in a regular exercise regime:

  1. You will gain additional energy reserves: when you exercise, muscle tissue is torn apart. When you rest, this tissue is rebuilt in ways that mean you will be stronger than before. Capillaries and arteries that carry blood around the body will also strengthen. Your levels of endurance will increase meaning you will be able to exercise for progressively greater amounts of time following each exercise session
  2. Your mood will improve: because endorphins are released during exercise, you will feel happier as a result. This feeling of pleasure will, in turn, compel you to continue exercising in future, which serves to further improve your mood. Thus, exercise and mood improvement act as a positive loop. One may even call this relationship a ‘positive’ addiction
  3. The amount of stress you are under will decrease: exercise allows you to purge negative emotions such as stress, depression and anxiety in natural ways. To test this out, go for a thirty-minute brisk walk and notice negative emotions as they are purged from your awareness
  4. You gain a new hobby and a new purpose: when you stop taking drugs and alcohol, a void is often created. You may fill this void by engaging in exercise. Also, when you stop taking drugs and alcohol, it’s likely you will stop associating with the people you hung about with during your addiction. When you join an exercise group, you get the opportunity to forge new social bonds with people who do not serve to tempt you back into your old bad habits
  5. The amount and quality of sleep you get will improve: by expending large quantities of energy during exercise, the body will naturally need more rest at night in order to revitalise. You will begin to establish a healthy steeping pattern that’s supportive of your long-term recovery goals

Which Types Of Exercise Are Most Beneficial For Recovery?

Whilst it’s true that all forms of physical exercise will be beneficial for your recovery, outdoor activities, yoga and aerobics are commonly touted as the most suitable forms of exercise for people in recovery.

Yoga is beneficial because it helps you to reduce stress. Yoga also incorporates meditative practice that’s known for helping you both fight off negative thoughts and improve your focus.

Aerobics is suitable for people in recovery because it improves your overall health.

‘Outdoor’ exercise is beneficial because you are able to reconnect with nature. Exposure to the sun will also increase your production of Vitamin D.

The type of exercise you engage in should also suit your age and level of fitness. It’s also important to choose an exercise that you enjoy.

For instance, if you do not enjoy running, there is no point taking up long-distance running because your disdain for this type of exercise will likely cause you to lose interest at some point or another. You would be better taking up a lower-intensity exercise such as pilates, yoga or walking.

Joining a group of like-minded people

We highly recommend you join a local club that specialises in your exercise of choice. For instance, if you enjoy running, we recommend you join a local running club, rather than merely going it alone. If you look hard enough, you will likely find a group for most exercise types.

Joining a club helps to hold you to account in actually turning up and taking part in your exercise. The club atmosphere is typically supportive and this will encourage you to stick to your new-found hobby.

When it comes to sticking to and progressing in your exercise selection, never underestimate the power of peer support.

Further resources


Tim has written about recovery and addiction for well over a decade. He is currently writing a book about exercise and recovery. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, cookie and spending time with his wife, children and three dogs.