5 Ways to Stay in Shape while Recovering from Addiction


There is growing evidence that exercise can be a powerful tool in an individual’s recovery, with experts believing that regular physical activity/exercise can be a healthy ‘stand-in’ for addictive substances.

With this in mind, many treatment centres have incorporated exercise into their treatment programmes, alongside other aspects of treatment, including therapy.

What are the Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery?

Whether you are in recovery or not, physical activity and exercise offer various benefits. And, there are several reasons why it is an important element for those in addiction recovery:

  • Increases the rate of abstinence;
  • Eases withdrawal symptoms;
  • Adds structure to the day;
  • Replace triggers;
  • Help you think more clearly;
  • Elevate mood;
  • Increase energy;
  • Better quality and quantity of sleep;
  • Stronger immune system;
  • Boost self-esteem and self-control;
  • Curb or distraction from cravings;
  • Stress reduction;
  • Better overall well-being;
  • Aids in relieving anxiety and depression;
  • Aids in preventing relapse; and
  • Help turn negative emotions into positive results.

Activities that Can Help in Addiction Recovery

When it comes to exercise, there are many different methods. Aerobic, or cardio, exercises get your heart rate up for a sustained period whilst resistance, or strength-training, exercises work your muscles.

Outlined below are five of the most common methods used by treatment centres.

1. Yoga

Yoga is a mind and body practice, and the various styles of yoga combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.

Yoga’s origins are not rooted in exercise, but some styles have been adapted into workouts that focus very much on the physical parts of the practice.

The amount of aerobic benefit you could get from yoga depends a lot on the style and pace of the type of yoga you are doing. From a resistance training perspective, yoga builds functional strength. This means you get stronger by using multiple joint and muscle groups together rather than strengthening a specific muscle in isolation, like you might do in weight lifting.

2. Cardio/Aerobic Classes

Cardio is short for cardiovascular exercise, and cardio or aerobic class include a variety of movements and exercise to get your heart rate up.

Although cardio exercises can vary greatly, the basic premise includes movement that increases blood circulation throughout the body and increases your heart rate.

3. Walking/Hiking

Walking and hiking is a good excuse to be in the great outdoors, whether that is in your local park, green space, or national parks. It is also good for our health, such as improving balance, improving muscles and bones, improving heart health, and decreasing the risk of certain respiratory diseases.

It can also aid our mental health as research suggests being in nature can boost your mood, lower stress, calms anxiety, and lowers the risk of depression.

4. Running

Running is a popular form of exercise, and it does not cost much to take part and you can do it pretty much anywhere at anytime. You can run solo, in a group, for leisure, in a fun run, or in a competition.

Some of the main benefits of running include helping to build strong bones (as it is a weight bearing exercise), strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular fitness, burn calories, and help maintain a healthy weight.

5. Swimming

Swimming is considered a great workout because it is a low-impact exercise that puts minimal stress on the joints and a heart-pumping cardiovascular workout that builds endurance and helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Further, the resistance of the water forces your body to work harder to complete each movement, toning your biceps, triceps, back, chest, stomach, and leg muscles as you swim.

Treatment centres will generally use a combination of the above, enabling you to choose one or more methods to suit your exercise preference.


Research demonstrates that aerobic exercise and resistance training might help with addiction recovery. However, if you are unsure where to start, consult with a medical professional or substance use counsellor about how to get active, or you could also reach out to recovery groups in your local area.


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