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5 Ways Exercise Can Benefit Addiction Recovery

Although traditional treatment methods for addiction have long helped people overcome their addictions and start healthier, sober lives, they have fallen short in preventing relapses in some. A more comprehensive, and successful, approach is the concept of holistic healing that addresses mental health, physical health, and spiritual health together.

Holistic programming in addiction treatment and sober living communities targets the emotional and spiritual aspects of addiction as well as the physical side. There is always so much discussion around the mental health aspect of addiction, sometimes the importance of physical health can be completely understated. One critical component of ensuring lasting recovery as part of holistic programming is regular exercise.

Being physically active will improve your mood and bring more structure to your days. Exercise helps combat anxiety and depression, improves self-esteem and self-confidence, and can be a social activity to foster pro-social connections. And most importantly, it helps reduce the risk of having a relapse in recovery.

And you can decide which activity is right for you. Whether it's walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, or playing tennis...if you choose something you enjoy you will be more likely to stick with it.

Here Are 5 Ways Exercise Can Benefit Your Recovery

1. The Ultimate Stress Reducer.

High levels of stress can have a dangerous effect on your mental and physical health.

Exercising routinely is one of the best ways to reduce your overall stress. Where before, as someone in the midst of substance abuse, you made a habit of reaching for drugs or alcohol to cope with your stress, replacing these terrible habits with exercise can actually help you recover from addictions and reduce your stress.

Physical activity releases endorphins (your feel-good hormones) in the brain and improves circulation, both of which help bring your stress levels down. Endorphins provide feelings of pleasure in your brain while reducing pain felt in your body, and when exercise releases them you'll feel a natural and safe euphoria.

2. Exercise Offers Structure. And A Productive Distraction.

Regular physical activity can help you recover from substance abuse by providing much-needed structure. While you were using, your life may have lacked structure and routine. Without these, it becomes easier to fall back on your old bad habits.

In addition to giving your schedule some structure, working out also provides you with a productive distraction. Whether it's a 10-minute walk around the block or a full 60-minute workout, the physical activity is distracting you from your addiction and is a productive coping mechanism. So while you are distracting yourself from cravings or urges, you are also benefiting your overall health.

3. Regular Exercise Leads To Better Sleep.

Not only does drug and alcohol abuse lead to a lack of daily structure, but it can also be highly disruptive to establishing any routine sleep. This is made worse in many people who feed their addictions with substances when they feel it's time to finally fall asleep because they believe it will help them get to sleep and stay asleep. Incorporating regular exercise can improve both your quality and quantity of sleep.

Studies have shown that as little as ten minutes of physical activity every day can improve the quality of your sleep. In recovery, it's essential to get quality sleep because a fresh mind can more easily handle everyday stressors which could lead to certain triggers, potentially causing a relapse.

4. Exercise Can Put You In A Better Mood.

Exercise releases endorphins (your feel-good hormone) in your brain, providing feelings of happiness and well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercising just 30 minutes every day is enough to affect a positive mood change.

In fact, research shows that even low levels of physical activity decrease the effects of depression and anxiety. Since we know people often use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and numb their negative feelings, lower levels of depression and anxiety can also directly affect an addict's desire to use.

5. Exercise Is A Great Way To Be Social

Social support is an essential part of recovery, especially through your family and close friends.

But other, more casual social interactions are also important as you move away from people who aren't good for you and start to develop new friends and a safer social network. The more new friends you can make who provide a positive model for healthy lifestyle choices will increase your chances of finding supportive people who can influence and support you on your recovery journey.


JacobsWay provides safe and structured sober living and holistic restoration in transitional homes for men and women. If you or a loved one are struggling on your journey toward a life free from addiction, contact JacobsWay today for information on how we can help.

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