Top Exercises to Help with Addiction Recovery

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Exercise and addiction recovery go hand in hand. Many people don’t realize how much regular exercise can help with staying sober. Exercise can be a big help in preventing relapse.

This guide will show you how exercise can support your journey to stay sober and overcome addiction to drugs or alcohol.

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Understanding Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery is the process of getting better from an addiction. Addiction is when someone cannot stop using a substance, like drugs or alcohol, even if it causes harm. Recovery means working to live a healthier, substance-free life. This is a process that involves the following steps:

  • Acknowledging the problem: The first step in recovery is realizing there is a problem with substance use and wanting to make a change.
  • Seeking help: Recovery often starts with seeking help from professionals like doctors, therapists, or counselors. There are many treatment centers and programs designed to support people in recovery.
  • Detox: Detox is the process of letting the body get rid of the substances. This can be a tough time because the body may have withdrawal symptoms, which are uncomfortable feelings that happen when stopping the substance.
  • Therapy and counseling: Talking to a therapist or counselor can help people understand the reasons behind the addiction and learn new ways to cope with problems. Different types of therapy, like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), can be helpful.
  • Medications: Sometimes, doctors may prescribe medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms or to reduce cravings for the substance.
  • Support groups: Joining support groups like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) can provide encouragement and understanding from others in recovery.
  • Creating a healthy lifestyle: Building new, healthy habits includes eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and finding hobbies that don’t involve substances.
  • Avoiding triggers: Triggers are things that make someone want to use the substance again. Learning to avoid or cope with these triggers is a key part of recovery.

Addiction recovery is a long-term process. It’s not just about stopping the use of substances but also about making positive changes in life. Sometimes, people might have setbacks, but that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed. With the right support and determination, long-term recovery is possible.

How Movement Benefits Mental & Physical Health

Regular movement and exercise are good for both your body and mind. They can also help with addiction recovery.

Physical health benefits

  • Strengthens muscles and bones: Exercise makes your muscles and bones stronger.
  • Boosts heart health: Activities like running, swimming, and biking improve heart function.
  • Helps maintain a healthy weight: Exercise helps burn calories and keeps your weight in check.
  • Improves flexibility and balance: Stretching and yoga help you move better and avoid injuries.
  • Enhances immune system: Being active helps your body fight off illnesses.

Mental health benefits

  • Reduces stress: Exercise helps your brain release chemicals in your brain that reduce stress and make you feel happier.
  • Improves mood: Physical activity boosts your mood by releasing feel-good chemicals called endorphins.
  • Increases energy levels: Regular exercise makes you feel more energetic.
  • Helps with sleep: Being active helps you fall asleep faster and sleep better.
  • Boosts self-esteem: Regular exercise helps you feel better about yourself.

How to get started

  • Find activities you enjoy: Pick exercises you like, such as walking, dancing, or playing a sport.
  • Start slowly: Begin with easy exercises and gradually do more.
  • Make a schedule: Plan time each day or week for physical activity.
  • Stay consistent: Regular exercise helps you see and feel the benefits.

You can enjoy a healthier body and a happier mind by exercising regularly.

Exercise and Addiction Recovery: Does It Actually Help?

Exercise is a powerful tool for people recovering from addiction. Recent studies have found that sticking to a weekly exercise routine can lower substance use and even help some people stop completely. Here are some ways regular physical activity can support sobriety.

Exercise boosts mood

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins and dopamine, which are chemicals that make you feel happy. This can help balance out the mood swings that often come with withdrawal. Even just 30 minutes of exercise a day can make a big difference in how you feel.

Exercise improves self-image

Regular exercise can help you feel better about your body and yourself. Whether you’re losing weight or building muscle, seeing the positive changes in your body can boost your self-esteem. Achieving fitness goals can also give you confidence and show you that you can overcome challenges.

Exercise reduces cravings

Exercise can help curb cravings for substances like opioids, marijuana, meth, and cocaine. Studies show that people who exercise regularly have more days without using substances. When you work out, your body gets more oxygen and nutrients, making you feel stronger and more energetic. This boost in energy can help you resist the urge to use drugs.

Exercise relieves stress

Stress can be a big trigger for substance use. Exercise helps reduce stress by releasing hormones that make you feel good. Both low-intensity and high-intensity workouts can help lower stress and improve your mood. This can be especially helpful during the tough times in recovery.

image depicting addiction recovery and exercise

Exercise improves sleep

Good sleep is essential for recovery, but it can be hard to come by, especially early on. Regular exercise can help you sleep better by making your body more tired at night and helping you fall asleep faster. Better sleep can improve your overall health and reduce the risk of relapse.

Exercise creates structure

Having a routine is vital in recovery. Exercise can provide that structure. Planning your workouts or joining exercise classes gives you a schedule to follow. This can help keep you on track and reduce the temptation to use substances during your free time.

Exercise fills your time

When you stop using substances, you may have a lot of extra time. Exercise is a great way to fill that time. It keeps you busy and helps you avoid making poor choices. Setting fitness goals, like training for a race, can also give you something positive to focus on.

Exercise builds healthy relationships

Joining a group exercise class or a sports team can help you meet new people in a sober environment. These new friendships can provide support and encouragement. Some communities even have exercise programs specifically for people in recovery, which can help you connect with others who understand what you’re going through.

Strength Training Exercises for Addiction Recovery

Strength training, also known as weight lifting or resistance training, can be helpful for people in addiction recovery.

What is strength training?

Strength training involves exercises that make your muscles stronger. This can include lifting weights, using resistance bands, or doing body-weight exercises like push-ups and squats.

Benefits of strength training

  • Builds muscle and bones: It helps make your muscles and bones stronger, which can improve your overall health.
  • Boosts confidence: Seeing your progress can make you feel proud and more confident.
  • Reduces stress: Lifting weights can help lower stress levels and improve your mood.
  • Creates routine: Having a regular workout schedule can give you structure and help keep your mind off cravings.

How to start strength training

  • Begin slowly: Start with lighter weights and gradually increase them as you get stronger.
  • Learn proper form: Ensure you know how to do the exercises correctly to avoid injuries.
  • Set goals: Set small, achievable goals to stay motivated.
  • Ask for help: Consider getting a trainer to help create a safe and effective workout plan.

Aerobic Exercises for Addiction Recovery

Aerobic exercises, also known as cardio, are activities that increase your heart rate and make you breathe harder. These exercises are excellent for improving physical and mental health during recovery.

What is aerobic exercise?

Aerobic exercise includes activities like running, swimming, biking, and dancing. These exercises are great for your heart and lungs.

Benefits of aerobic exercise

  • Improves heart health: Regular cardio strengthens your heart and improves circulation.
  • Boosts mood: Cardio exercises release endorphins, which are chemicals that make you feel happy.
  • Reduces anxiety and depression: Aerobic exercise can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, common in recovery.
  • Helps control cravings: Staying active can distract you from cravings and help you focus on your recovery.

How to start aerobic exercise

  • Choose activities you enjoy: Pick exercises you like so you’ll be more likely to stick with them.
  • Start slow: Begin with short sessions and gradually increase the duration.
  • Stay consistent: Try to do aerobic exercises at least three times a week.
  • Mix it up: Vary your activities to keep it fun and engaging.

Anaerobic Exercises for Addiction Recovery

Anaerobic exercises are short, intense activities that build strength and power. These exercises can be beneficial for those recovering from addiction.

What is anaerobic exercise?

Anaerobic exercise includes sprinting, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), and heavy weight lifting. These exercises are done in short bursts of high energy.

Benefits of anaerobic exercise

  • Builds muscle strength: It helps you build strong muscles quickly.
  • Increases metabolism: These exercises can boost your metabolism, helping you burn calories even after exercising.
  • Improves mental health: Intense exercise can reduce stress and improve mood.
  • Provides a healthy outlet: It gives you a way to channel energy and frustration positively.

How to start anaerobic exercise

  • Warm up: Always start with a warm-up to prepare your muscles and prevent injury.
  • Short bursts: Do exercises in short, intense bursts with rest in between.
  • Combine with other exercises: Mix anaerobic exercises with aerobic and strength training for a balanced workout routine.
  • Listen to your body: Make sure to rest and recover to avoid overtraining and injury.

Incorporating these different types of exercises into your routine can greatly support your recovery journey, improving both your physical and mental health.

image depicting california detox exercise for addiction recovery

Restore Your True Self with California Detox’s Addiction Recovery Programs

Take advantage of exercise for addiction recovery at California Detox in Laguna Beach, CA, and let us help you get sober and stay sober.

Our medical detox program provides 24/7 care and access to medications. This makes drug or alcohol withdrawal safer and more comfortable.

After detox, you can move into ongoing inpatient treatment at our rehab by the beach. All addictions are different, so all treatment programs at California Detox offer personalized therapies, such as:

For immediate help, call our admissions team at 949.694.8305.


Physical exercise reduces stress and anxiety, releases mood-lifting endorphins, and provides structure and routine, which are crucial for recovery.
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly, along with muscle-strengthening exercises on two days, starting slowly and increasing gradually.


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