Exercise a New Beginning: Physical Activity for Addiction Recovery

Strengthening the body is not only an investment in your future but a well-known antidote to a variety of ailments like depression and anxiety. Evidence has shown that physical fitness can be a powerful ally in the fight towards long-term addiction recovery.

Exercise has associated effects on the brain as well, by increasing the production of ‘feel good chemicals.’  However, beginning and sticking with a workout program can seem intimidating, but learning about the plethora of possibilities, trying a variety of exercise classes, exploring retreats and other options will open up hope for what lies ahead.

Exercise Ideas

Physical activity improves brain function by restoring the production of important neurochemicals, like dopamine, serotonin, thus enhancing mood, memory, and focus.


Yoga is an ancient practice of meditation and relaxation. As an exercise regiment yoga does not only increase physical fitness by increasing flexibility, mobility, balance, and strength, but it also places great emphasis on meditation and the mind. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published results on the effectiveness of yoga as a treatment for drug abuse and trauma.

Cross Training

Many gyms now implement the idea of varied functional fitness training as a way to fortify body and mind. This type of training offers more intense and varied workouts that implement strength and conditioning through weight lifting, cardio, and gymnastics.


In the 1970’s the term runner’s high emerged to describe the feeling of euphoria felt when the body releases endorphins during exercise. Running clears the mind, focuses the spirit, and trains the body in the art of endurance.  It requires little equipment, can be done indoors and outdoors and with proper technique can strengthen knees and back muscles while increasing cardiovascular health.


Hiking can untap the healing potential of mother nature. If you like exploring the outdoors, hiking can be a great option. Hiking demands focus and endurance while working the body’s strength and conditioning. Huffington Post reported that hiking helps those with depression and other health ailments because of its therapeutic qualities. It is great for clearing the mind and separating from the bustling city life. Hiking can be done alone or with a partner or even with your dog!

A Program You Can Stick With

Adopting a fitness regimen requires lifestyle changes and the forming of new habits. Sticking with an exercise program can seem like a challenge, here are a few tips to help:

  • Write down your goals. This will make the target clearer and easier to commit to.

  • Start off slow. Increase your exercise sessions slowly.

  • Adjust your diet accordingly. It’s often the case that people are simply not fueling their body enough with the appropriate nutrients, which makes exercise much harder.

  • Get some variety going. You can vary your workouts by combining programs or disciplines. For example, two days of yoga and two days of running a week.

  • Find a buddy. Having a partner with similar goals helps motivation.

Breaking the Cycle

Exploring your local options can really open up to a side of the community you had never experienced. Visiting local wellness retreats can help in diving into a new life pattern. CNN reported that exercise can be a pathway to replace addiction with a healthy obsession by building new habits. A retreat can be a great way to relax, immerse yourself in a positive environment, meet new people, and restore your balance.

Wherever you happen to be, the establishment of a healthy lifestyle and implementation of regular exercise will help the healing process. Reconnect with yourself and your dreams through the purification of the mind and the strengthening of the body.

This article was submitted as a Guest Contributor to Body Buddies by Constance Ray.

Constance Ray started Recoverywell.org with the goal of creating a safe place for people to share how addiction has affected them, whether they are combating it themselves or watching someone they care about work to overcome it. The goal is to share stories of hope from survivors who know that the fight against addiction is one worth having, because no matter how it affects you, life can get better.