Why Exercise is Important for those in Recovery

Recovering from drug and alcohol abuse can be a physical and psychological challenge. While there is often times a sense of renewal and positive feelings to go with it, the real work isn’t over yet. That’s not to imply that the process of quitting itself is not a struggle. Making the decision to quit and finally following through with that intention can be a long and painful journey for many. 

What most men and women who have significantly abused alcohol or drugs don’t usually realize is the extent of the damage that was done. The initial feeling of freshness and vitality will soon vanish if they don’t make the lifestyle changes that are necessary to support the recovery process. 

Exercise for Mood Improvement


There are so many problems left to repair for those in recovery. These can be relationship, financial, housing or even other health problems. It’s great to be sober now, but it can all be very overwhelming. Feelings of guilt, sadness and fear will often begin their return. What they once used as a sedative for times like this is no longer allowed. This is the kind of time that can cause so many in recovery to use again. 

Regular strenuous exercise causes the brain to release endorphins into the body that can have an uplifting effect. A sense of accomplishment is usually one of the benefits reported by those who take regular exercise. 

The endorphins released during strenuous exercise are very similar to those that were released when the drug of choice was used. Endorphins have a way of reducing feelings of discomfort or pain and producing positive feelings. It was the brain’s natural chemistry that regulated emotions and feelings that was crucially disrupted during the abuse of drug and alcohol. 

The process of recalibrating the balance in the brain can be an uncomfortable one. Many of those in recovery mention sudden feelings of tiredness and deep sadness that might come upon them quite suddenly and overwhelmingly. This is actually a good thing in disguise. 

It’s a symptom of the brain’s attempt to correct the imbalance. It can take months and sometimes years for the brain to recover substantially. Regular strenuous exercise can alleviate these symptoms of repair. The brain will slowly learn to regulate its own chemistry again. Exercise and a healthy diet over an extended period contribute greatly towards the brain’s healing. The result is greater control over emotions and a sense of continual well-being. 

Exercise for Better Sleep


Insomnia is another major cause of relapse for those in recovery, especially when it comes to alcohol as the former drug of choice. When people drink heavily, they don’t really go to sleep, they have just passed out. The body has to slow down other bodily functions in order to focus on getting all the poison out of the body and the brain is in a comatose state. However, this is perceived as a good night’s sleep by those who abuse alcohol. 

Recovering from addiction often means sleepless nights for many, unless sleep medication has been prescribed. However, sleep medication should only be used for a while, or a dependency can occur. This is where exercise can play a vital role in sleep quality. 

Regular exercise at the same time of day can actually program the body to get used to sleeping at a certain time depending on when the exercise has occurred. Research has shown that exercise can cause a shift in the the body’s circadian rhythm, which can improve sleep quality. 

It works much like the way melatonin, a sleep hormone released by the pineal gland, tells the body it’s time to get ready to go to sleep. When it’s taken as a supplement, it’s likely to cause drowsiness which can lead to a good night’s sleep. Exercise raises the body’s temperature for an extended period of time. The body temperature drop that occurs after exercise can signal the brain and body to prepare to wind down for the day. 

There is no doubt that adding aerobic and strength-training exercises to a recovery program is a good fit. Actually, it can be quite necessary and should be spoken about to everyone preparing to leave a drug and alcohol treatment facility.