The Benefits of Fitness in Addiction Recovery


Photo via Pixabay.

When overcoming addiction, it can seem almost impossible to focus both on curbing your addictive impulses and maintaining a fitness regimen. Both involve a huge amount of self-control, and it is easy to feel like you do not have enough of it to go around.

However, fitness and addiction recovery go hand in hand. An exercise routine can help you achieve your recovery goals faster, while implementing practices that will make you less likely to relapse down the line. Here are a few ways that physical fitness can help you on your road to recovery.

Reducing Stress

Stress is the leading reason for relapse. Despite any progress they have made, people often will turn to their substance or behavior of choice as a coping mechanism to stress. This is one of the main reasons why exercise and fitness can be crucial to ensuring a full recovery.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it is well-established that exercise reduces stress and anxiety. When your body is healthy, your mind is healthy as well. You are less likely to experience anxiety due to poor mental and physical health or lack of sleep, and when you do feel stressed you have a healthy way to deal with it.

Giving You A Routine

Several experts agree that routine is important to addiction recovery. A routine means stability and consistency, which are both cornerstones of many organized recovery programs. Having an organized routine also eliminates boredom, which can easily lead to you relapsing into old behaviors.

When creating your new fitness goals and habits, make sure to keep them structured. Define exactly when you are going to exercise, for how long and what you are going to do. Set yourself achievable and measurable goals that you can focus on and track as your physical fitness improves.

Improving Confidence

Physical fitness also can help your addiction recovery by improving your confidence and self-esteem. It’s not just about your physical appearance, although that is likely to improve as you become stronger. Achieving your fitness goals will make you feel in control of your progress. This means you are likely to develop a more positive, confident approach to other aspects of your life, including your ability to make a full recovery from your addiction.

Replacing Your Endorphins

People become addicted to certain substances and behaviors because they produce a rush of endorphins, which are responsible for the sensation of a ‘high’. Studies have shown that exercise is a great support tool for recovery because it also produces endorphins, meaning it can be a healthy coping mechanism for whenever you feel the impulse to relapse.

Prioritizing Wellness

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines wellness as a multi-dimensional concept, incorporating emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, financial, social, environmental and spiritual elements.

The great thing about exercise and fitness is that it can fulfill several of those needs at once. As well as obviously enhancing your physical well-being, you can improve:

  • Environmental wellness by exercising outdoors and in nature
  • Social wellness by working out with other people
  • Occupational wellness by deriving a sense of achievement from your progress
  • Emotional wellness by using exercise to reduce stress and practice self-care

By choosing to incorporate fitness into your addiction recovery, you are helping yourself lead a healthier life in every possible way, not just physical.

Maintaining and improving your physical fitness is a great way to support and enhance your addiction recovery. Exercise can improve your mental health, confidence and ability to cope with stress and boredom. Whether you decide to run a 5K or simply commit to a walk in the park twice a week, setting and fulfilling your fitness goals will help you on your way to a full and healthy life.


Beat the Blues With Winter Workouts

exercise with a friend Image via Pixabay

Image via Pixabay

Going for a brisk run outdoors is a sure way to boost your mood and your heart rate. But brisk takes on a whole new meaning when winter weather hits. So, if you’ve had to move your workout routine indoors for the time being, here are some tips for staying fit, focused, and warm this winter.

It’s Worth the Effort

When you aren’t feeling motivated to move, just remind yourself of the rewards. Exercise can help you control weight and stave off ailments including diabetes, heart disease, many types of cancer, and even some mood disorders. Indeed, studies have shown regular physical activity can be an effective complementary treatment for conditions including anxiety and depression because it releases endorphins and other mood-boosting chemicals in the brain.  Exercise also helps reduce stress by naturally increasing levels of calming brain chemicals including serotonin and dopamine, among other effects.

Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it also boosts your positive, motivating emotions, too. Part of this is biology—the body is regulating itself during exercise, but it also has to do with seeing and feeling the results of your efforts. For instance, setting and meeting goals, even if they are modest ones, can boost your self-confidence even before you start seeing the results of your efforts on the scale or in the mirror. And physical activity can provide a healthy, proactive way to take your mind off your worries.

Get Fit With a Friend

Exercising with a partner or a group can provide an even bigger boost to your social and emotional well-being. It is also a great winter-weather motivator because it increases your accountability to others.

Fitness partners or groups that share similar goals can also offer support, motivation, and often healthy competition, which all work to boost the likelihood that you’ll stick with an exercise routine, according to Experience Life magazine. They can also make a workout more fun and combine socializing and exercise for people who have limited time in their schedules for either activity. To implement this stay-fit strategy, consider looking for a partner who shares your objectives, whether you want to lose weight, build strength, try a new activity, or train for a specific event.

Or Get Healthy at Home

A home-based winter workout takes away almost all the barriers to staying fit, even for those who are self-conscious about how they look when they’re exercising. After all, you don’t even have to brave the cold to get to a gym or the crowd once you get there. Solo sweat sessions at home also save time and money because you don’t have to invest in a fitness club membership or take precious minutes to travel to and from the gym when your workout window is already narrow. And you can exercise absolutely any time that fits your schedule.

There are many methods to stay fit while staying home. For instance, if you don’t have a treadmill, exercise bike, or elliptical trainer, you can get a cardio workout just by jumping rope. Doing sets of jumping jacks, knee highs, squat thrusts, and the like will also get your heart going.  And you can stage a strength-training session using body-weight exercises including planks, crunches, push-ups, and lunges. Or invest in an affordable set of dumbbells or resistance bands to expand your weightlifting repertoire.

You can also practice yoga at home with little more than a mat. To polish and perfect your poses without spending any money, try checking out yoga DVDs from your local library or searching for free routines online.

Whether you prefer solo or social exercise, there are plenty of ways to stay warm this winter without putting your workout routine into hibernation. So turn up the thermostat and the tunes at home or find a fitness buddy and get moving.

Jason Lewis

Meditate like Emma Watson

Recently my friend Mirjam invited me to celebrate her birthday with 14 of her closest friends in a 200 year old French Manor in Lure, France. The weekend was filled with explorations, good food and wine, and yoga of course!

Weekend getaway to Lure, France for Mirjam's birthday!

Weekend getaway to Lure, France for Mirjam’s birthday!

Mirjam also writes for the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger. Recently she wrote an article titled Meditate like Emma Watson. Mirjam included a quote from me in the article describing mindful sharing! For those of us who don’t read German, I was quoted saying ” Mindful sharing is different from retelling a story because you try to observe what happened objectively.”

I mentioned this article to a yogi friend who asked me what I meant by “mindful sharing”. I thought that was a funny question because most yogis I know live in a constant state of mindful sharing. Our practice humbles us to accept what we cannot change– a way of thinking that influences our everyday relationships and communication.

After a birthday weekend of fun, we relaxed & stretched before returning to Zurich.

After a birthday weekend of fun, we relaxed & stretched before returning to Zurich.


A moment of reflection in La Colline Notre-Dame du Haut bulit by Swiss architect Le Corbusier.

Happy Birthday Mirjam and thanks for my second quote in Tages Anzeiger!

(The first one advised people to not wear pajamas during Skype interviews!)