Although physical movement is typically utilized as a primary means for weight loss or toning, a myriad of health benefits exceeds the physical results often accompanied by incorporating exercise into one’s life. In the case of recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction, the results can be even more apparent. Because addiction adversely affects the biochemistry of the brain and body, adopting an exercise regimen in one’s recovery program can increase the likelihood that one will thrive in sobriety long-term.

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With its brain-boosting, emotion-stabilizing, endorphin-releasing benefits, it’s no wonder that exercise is particularly beneficial for people recovering from a substance abuse disorder. Therefore, integrating daily movement into one’s life can help restore the body to equilibrium and clear the mind of the “fog” often produced as one detoxes off drugs and alcohol. With a clearer mind, the chances of long-term sobriety are much more likely.

The Benefits of Exercise for Someone in Addiction Recovery

When mind-altering substances are detoxing out of the body, the user may be more prone to fluctuations in mood and experience physical consequences due to drug abuse (e.g., depression, anxiety, tiredness). Fortunately, these effects can be mitigated by incorporating movement into one’s recovery regimen.

Here is a short list of the benefits of physical activity in a recovery program: 

  • Stress Reduction: exercising increases serotonin, also known as the “feel-good” hormone. As a result, stress-related hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, etc.) are reduced. This is especially helpful when withdrawing from drugs or alcohol, and depression is typically experienced. 
  • Increased Energy: It seems paradoxical that expending energy can increase energy storage and productivity, but it is true. When detoxing off drugs, a common complaint is a feeling of “lethargy” produced by the body as it tries to come into equilibrium without drugs. Exercise helps combat the common tiredness experienced, especially in early sobriety.
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  • Clearer Mind: Exercise significantly impacts brain function, memory, and learning. With a clearer mind, someone transitioning from addiction to sobriety can focus more on recovery and thus have a better chance of success with long-term sobriety. 
  • Better Sleep: Exercise is especially beneficial in early sobriety when sleep disturbances or insomnia are quite common. Because lack of sleep can cause someone to relapse on drugs, a better night’s sleep greatly benefits a successful recovery program. 
  • Improved Mood: As mentioned previously, physical movement increases serotonin in the brain, increasing feelings of happiness and well-being. This is vital in the early stages of recovery when mood changes are typical symptoms experienced as the brain and body adjust to life without drugs or alcohol.
  • Stronger Immune System: Because drugs and alcohol suppress the immune system, physical movement is one of the best lines of defense to build a stronger immune system.

How to Incorporate Exercise Into An Addiction Recovery Program

Recovery can be time-consuming. It requires much attention, focus, and support, especially at the beginning stages of transitioning from addiction to sobriety. This can make it difficult for someone to spend long, tedious hours at the gym to reap the benefits of physical activity. However, incorporating exercise into one’s life doesn’t have to be that difficult or time-consuming. Research shows that exercise is beneficial even if it’s not an intense or lengthy session. Just 30 minutes a day, even if broken sporadically throughout the day (e.g., pacing when talking on the phone, parking farther away from the grocery store, taking the stairs instead of an elevator), can be just as beneficial as long exercise sessions at the gym.

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Furthermore, additional research has stated that high-intensity interval training for just 15 minutes a few times a week can provide the same benefits, if not more, than spending an hour at the gym daily. This type of movement incorporates short, intense bursts of physical activity followed by short periods of rest. Choosing what exercise protocol works best will depend on the individual. Typically, because the body is drained from abusing drugs or alcohol at the beginning stages of recovery, starting slow with walking or yoga will be the best way to ease into working out. Additionally, choosing activities that one finds enjoyable will provide a greater chance of success and ensure that a lifestyle of physical movement is sustained over a longer period (e.g., playing sports, swimming, hiking in nature, or anything that one finds enjoyable).

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Exercise Recovery Programs in Addiction Treatment

As seen, exercise is extremely beneficial in the recovery process of transitioning from addiction to sobriety. However, although exercise can play a vital role in ensuring long-term sobriety, it is vital to address that it alone is not the “one-step” cure to addiction. Exercise alone plays only a small part in the recovery process. Addiction is a complex disease that requires a holistic approach, such as therapy, support groups, and possibly inpatient/intensive outpatient treatment with a trained medical professional.

With this being said, treating addiction through body, mind, and spirit efforts has the highest chance of success with long-term sobriety. Therefore, if seeking help through a drug or alcohol rehab center is necessary, finding one that incorporates all three of these modalities can provide the most beneficial outcome for the person struggling with a substance abuse disorder.

If you or a loved one are seeking alcohol and drug rehab in Austin or Dallas, Texas, contact Infinite Recovery today.


Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

  1. Mayo Clinic Staff. 7 great reasons why exercise matters. Mayo Clinic. Published October 8, 2021. Accessed July 4, 2022.
  2. MedlinePlus. Benefits of Exercise. Published August 30, 2017. Accessed July 4, 2022.
  3. Stewart K. How Exercise Boosts Your Health. Published January 30, 2018. Accessed July 4, 2022.
  4. Fitness Blender. What is HIIT and how do I use it in my training? Fitness Blender. Accessed July 4, 2022.
Amanda Stevens, BS

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Ascendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed July 4, 2022

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