The Importance of Exercise in Recovery

Drug or alcohol abuse wreaks havoc on both your psychological and physical well-being. After entering an addiction recovery program, there are things you can do to manage cravings and begin healing your body. The following information focuses on healthy ways to repair your mental, emotional and physical health as you continue to develop a strong recovery mindset. Everyone understands the importance of exercise in general, but in recovery it’s even more important.

Exercise and Your Brain Chemistry

When you abuse drugs or alcohol, your body releases feel-good chemicals called “endorphins.” However, drug or alcohol abuse eventually interferes with your body’s natural ability to produce these endorphins without the aid of addictive substances in your system. When you stop using drugs or alcohol, your endorphin levels drop, causing depression, hopelessness, and cravings. This drop in your body’s feel-good chemicals is one of the main reasons for relapse.

A healthy way to produce endorphins is through exercise. By engaging in a regular exercise program, your body begins to produce and regulate endorphins in your system, allowing you to naturally experience feelings of pleasure and happiness without the use of addictive substances. An exercise program is an effective tool for addiction recovery because you can learn to regulate your mood and brain chemistry in a natural and healthy way.

The Importance of Exercise in Developing Healthy Coping Skills

Many addicts use drugs or alcohol to cope with stress because they lack natural coping skills for dealing with everyday stressors in their lives. Exercise is a healthy way to alleviate stress and relieve tension in your body. By simply moving your body, you can naturally release the negative emotions you’ve been holding in, without the need to use drugs or alcohol as an escape.

In addition to stress relief, exercise is also important in recovery as it often improves your outlook on life by increasing optimism and self-confidence. This is partially due to the feelings of accomplishment you experience as you achieve fitness goals and transform your body. In addition, your brain chemistry begins to even-out and recalibrate itself through exercise, resulting in an overall feeling of well-being and the desire to maintain sobriety.

The Importance of Exercise for Psychological Well-being

Exercise provides a variety of psychological benefits that can aid in your addiction recovery program, including:

  • Improved self-esteem
  • Less anxiety and tension
  • Reduced depression
  • Improved mood outlook
  • Sharper Mind
  • Exercise Creates Structure and Purpose

A regular exercise routine provides structure to your day that can be very helpful during recovery. By committing to a fitness routine, you may find it easier to avoid a relapse because it will throw your entire routine out of whack. For example, if you know you have an early exercise class in the morning, you may be less likely to drink alcohol the night before because drinking will make it much harder to get up and work out in the morning.

Addicts typically spend a lot of time preoccupied with thoughts of acquiring and using their drug of choice. In early addiction recovery, you may find yourself with all of this time on your hands that used to be spent on drug-related thoughts and activities. A regular exercise routine is important in recovery as it can fill up much of the time that was once wasted on unhealthy behaviors and provide you with a purpose for the day. Unless you find a healthy alternative activity, such as exercise, to replace your old habits, you’ll be much more susceptible to relapse.

Other Important Routines and Choices in Recovery

In addition to exercise, there are other healthy choices and routines you can adopt as part of developing a strong recovery mindset.

The Importance of Meditation in Recovery

Practicing meditation helps quiet the chatter in your mind and promotes mental clarity. Although there are many different meditation techniques out there, one of the most popular ones for addiction recovery is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to deliberately focus your attention on the present moment. By focusing your mind on your breathing or an object while meditating, you can gently bring yourself back to the present moment each time your mind starts to wander.

Mindfulness is defined as observation without criticism or judgment. When using mindfulness meditation to aid in addiction recovery, you learn to simply observe your cravings as they appear, without self-condemnation. Fearing or trying to ignore the cravings gives them more power, but through mindfulness meditation techniques, you can remove the power these temporary cravings have over you. By acknowledging and observing the cravings without judgment, you remove their power, so they disappear. Through regular mindfulness meditation practice, you’ll gain better mind control, allowing you to observe a craving without acting on it.

The Importance of Nutrition in Recovery

Addiction to drugs or alcohol takes a huge toll on your body. In early recovery, most addicts don’t even realize how much damage has been done to their physical health that may include:

Malnourishment

Drug addicts are often malnourished when they begin recovery due to a poor diet and digestive problems caused by drugs, such as chronic diarrhea and constipation. Alcoholics can become severely malnourished by filling up on the empty calories in alcohol instead of nutritious food.

Liver damage

Heavy use of alcohol or drugs can damage your liver, disrupting its ability to filter out toxins. A damaged liver is more susceptible to cancer growth.

Compromised Immune System

Addiction impairs your body’s natural defenses against a disease that can lead to many types of cancer and other illnesses.

Unhealthy physical appearance

Drug and alcohol addiction can prevent your body from absorbing the vital nutrients it needs to maintain good health. Some of the visible effects of addiction include tooth loss, skin sores, and unhealthy weight loss.


Taking steps to restore your physical well-being through proper nutrition lays the foundation for continued sobriety and good health. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is the easiest way to nourish your body and begin repairing the damage.

Addiction damages your mind, body and spirit. For long-term recovery, it is crucial to repair the psychological and physical damage caused by drug or alcohol abuse. Exercise, meditation and a healthy diet are three of the most important tools for recovery and allow you to maintain a healthy recovery mindset and build a better life for yourself.

Image credit Flickr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.