The Transformative Power of Exercise During Recovery

people playing basketball


The journey toward sobriety is paved with numerous personal and societal challenges. A person in recovery needs a robust arsenal of tools to combat the temptations, triggers, and stresses associated with this voyage. One of the most potent tools to aid this journey is exercise.

Research has repeatedly shown exercise’s profound influence on a person’s well-being. A seminal study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment (2017) found that incorporating a regular fitness regime into a treatment program for substance use disorder significantly improved recovery outcomes.

The study demonstrated that regular physical activity reduces cravings and decreases the likelihood of relapse. Further, exercise improves mood and decreases anxiety, factors that are often associated with drug use and relapse.

The secret lies in the physiological and psychological effects of exercise. Physical activity stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters. These ‘feel-good’ hormones act as natural painkillers and provide a sense of well-being.

It’s an organic high that can replace the artificial and damaging one that substances provide. Furthermore, exercise is a constructive way to fill the void many people in recovery experience when they stop using drugs or alcohol.

Legendary basketball player Michael Jordan said it best…

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and miss. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

–Michael Jordan

His story is a testament to the power of perseverance, discipline, and the value of a healthy body and mind in overcoming personal challenges. His journey echoes the journey many are taking in their recovery process.

Six Fantastic Exercises to Help You Achieve and Maintain Sobriety

Remember, as you embark on this journey, you’re not alone. An entire community supports your efforts to integrate physical fitness into your recovery.

1. Yoga

One of the first exercises to consider incorporating into your recovery journey is yoga. Yoga not only tones the body but also sharpens the mind. It brings awareness to your breath, body’s movements, and thoughts – promoting a profound sense of calm and focus.

2. Running

Running program after rehab” is a phrase you might have encountered if you’ve been researching exercises beneficial for recovery. Running helps to alleviate stress and improve mood. It can be easily incorporated into your routine, whether you run in your local park, in the heart of New York City, or amidst the beautiful mountains in Utah.

3. Strength Training

Strength training is an excellent way to build physical strength and resilience. It’s a metaphor for the internal strength you’re building as you work through your recovery process.

4. Group Sports

Group sports like soccer, basketball, or volleyball can provide physical and social benefits. It can introduce you to a new support network of healthy individuals, whether you’re in residential treatment in Utah, California, or New York.

5. Hiking and Nature Walks

Outdoor exercises like hiking or nature walks can connect you to nature, providing peace and tranquility. There’s something incredibly healing about being amidst the grandeur of nature.

6. Swimming

Swimming is a total body workout that’s easy on the joints. It’s also incredibly meditative, allowing you to lose yourself in the rhythm of your strokes.

Why Exercise During Recovery is so Important

The benefits of exercise during recovery are profound and far-reaching. Each form of physical activity offers unique advantages, from the meditative aspects of yoga and swimming to the exhilaration and camaraderie of running and team sports.

What ties all these exercises together is their ability to nurture your well-being, build physical strength, boost self-confidence, and promote a sense of accomplishment.

Choose the type of exercise that resonates with you, something that you enjoy and can commit to. Whether it’s yoga, running, strength training, group sports, hiking, or swimming, each has its unique way of supporting your recovery.

Incorporating exercise isn’t about achieving perfection; it’s about progress. It’s about continuously moving forward and creating a healthier, happier you.


As you embark on this journey, remember Michael Jordan’s words. The road might be challenging, and you may stumble, but every effort you make brings you closer to your goal.

It’s important to stay patient, persistent, and compassionate with yourself as you take each step forward. You are not alone on this path.

Remember, there’s a world of support – in the form of rehab centers, fitness experts, and communities of individuals on the same journey.

Draw strength from them, learn from their experiences, and stay committed to your path.

About Theresa Duncan

Originally from Detroit, MI, Theresa has been offering health and fitness advice for the last 30 years while working as an engineer. She decided to turn her passion into a profession, and finds nothing more satisfying than helping others reach their health and fitness goals.

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