With over 21 million Americans suffering from alcohol and drug use disorders, if you are recovering from addiction, you are certainly not alone. But with relapse rates standing at 40-60%, no journey toward sober living is easy, straightforward, or free of pitfalls. 

Undoubtedly, strategies such as detoxing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are the pillars of any addiction treatment program. But there is another arrow in the quiver you can use to support your recovery: exercise. 

Here is all you need to know about the benefits of physical activity in the fight against addiction. 

Exercise Can Help Combat Cravings and Withdrawal Symptoms

Some of the main reasons why practicing sports can help you fight addiction is that physical activity can curb cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. In turn, this can support abstinence and prevent relapses. 

According to a Danish pilot study conducted in 2010, individuals who committed to regular aerobic exercise significantly reduced their substance intake. And, a quarter of participants even carried on to living a sober life. 

Exercise Is A Powerful Physical And Psychological Stress Reliever

Stress and addiction are intertwined. Today, around 1-in-5 people with anxiety struggle with alcohol use, and, vice-versa, 20% of those addicted to alcohol have dual-diagnosis anxiety disorders. What’s more, those fighting withdrawal symptoms report high levels of physical and psychological stress, which can lead to relapse. 

Physical exercise can help by lowering cortisol levels and triggering the production of endorphins (the happiness hormones) and serotonin. These chemicals act as painkillers and cause what’s known as the “Runner’s High”, making you feel satisfied, happy, and stimulated. 

Because of the wide range of benefits that exercise offers, clinics such as the Roots through Recovery Alcohol Rehab center implement exercise and mind-body activities in their mindfulness-based relapse prevention program. 

Exercising Regularly Can Give Structure To Your Routine

Establishing a structured routine is a key element of fighting addiction and promoting recovery. Thanks to a structured daily schedule, you can fill idle time and redirect your time and thoughts towards beneficial activities, rather than alcohol or drug use. 

For example, exercising every day early in the morning or before dinner can help you keep safe from triggers, such as late-niht binging or happy hour deals. 

If you don’t feel motivated enough to stick to a daily exercise routine, consider joining group classes that take place at the same time each day. 

Moving Your Body Can Boost Your Mood And Increase Energy

When engaging in physical activity, your body will release several feel-good chemicals, including dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These chemicals can help regulate your mood and the way energy is released through the body during the day.

In turn, a bout of exercise can help you experience a rush of energy and excitement without having to resort to alcohol or drug use, thus providing a healthy mental replacement for harmful substances.

  • Pro tip – engaging in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week can also help you fight the sleep problems often associated with withdrawal, including insomnia. In turn, this can improve energy levels, mood, and productivity.  

Sports and Exercise Are Social Activities That Help Replace Your Triggers

Practicing sports, joining a club, or signing up for classes can help you refresh your group of acquaintances and friends. By building positive and healthy relationships within a sober environment, you’ll find it easier to stay away from the places, people, and activities that act as triggers for substance and alcohol use. 

Exercise Is A Key Element Of Relapse Prevention

A collection of studies have found that regular exercise can increase the abstinence rate by over 95% by easing stress, anxiety, and depression, which are common triggers leading to relapse. 

What’s more, a 2016 review shows that a bout of exercise can stimulate the endogenous opioids produced in the brain, thus curbing the use to drink. In turn, when coupled with other strategies such as CBT, exercise can be a powerful tool to avoid dangerous relapses. 

Achieving Fitness Goals Can Boost Your Self-Image And Self-Esteem

Exercising regularly can lead to immediate and long-term rewards, including increased physical fitness and improved self-image, thus making you feel better about yourself and more confident in your ability to overcome addiction. 

So, if you have been looking for a strategy to keep up your motivation levels and commitment to your addiction recovery journey, exercising can help!