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10 Ways To Stay Active in Recovery

picture of Joe Gilmore
Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 28, 2023

Table of Contents

Whether you’re addicted to alcohol, nicotine, prescription painkillers, or illicit drugs, physical exercise has been proven to significantly lessen withdrawal symptoms.

Once you’ve finished your course of treatment, physical activity can also play a key role in reducing your cravings for drink or drugs, and in protecting you against relapse. Staying active in recovery can also improve your chances of sustained abstinence.

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Why Is Exercise Beneficial During Addiction Recovery?

When you exercise, the activity will impact the hormones in your body responsible for inducing stress and cravings.

Exercise is proven to increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter linked to reward and pleasure. When your dopamine levels are high, you’ll feel good. At the same time, anyone struggling with addiction should also experience fewer cravings for drink or drugs. Also, since your body’s pleasure center is already satisfied, you should find yourself wanting to abuse substances less and less.

The other hormone influenced by exercise is norepinephrine. Your body releases this hormone when you’re stressed, and levels of norepinephrine decrease when you exercise. High norepinephrine levels are associated with relapse, so you’ll strengthen your chances of staying sober if you also stay active.

Being active in your recovery can also be a powerful way of changing the people, places, or things in your life that tempt you to abuse substances. The more you engage with various physical activities, the more likely you are to spend your time healthily and productively, rather than defaulting to substance abuse.

Exercise can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, so if you have been self-medicating a mental health issue with drink or drugs, exercise may afford you an alternative to your habitual chemical crutch.

If it’s been a long time since you considered any form of physical activity and you’re stuck for ideas, use some of these tips as a springboard to becoming more active while staying sober over the long haul.

10 Great Ways to Stay Active in Your Recovery

1. Walking

2. Hiking

3. Jogging or running

4. Swimming

5. Yoga

6. Weight training

7. Cycling

8. Dancing

9. Team sports

10.  Classes at your local gym

1) Walking

There’s absolutely no need to launch from total inactivity into weight lifting or sprinting daily. Take things slowly and start with some gentle walking.

Even if you are ordinarily fit and healthy, detox and rehab are wearing. Start with an unambitious thirty-minute stroll in the park to get your circulation going and initiate the habit of exercise, while boosting your mood at the same time.

Aim for thirty minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate daily, and don’t write off the many benefits of walking. Start by walking once or twice a week and work yourself up to a daily stroll.

2) Hiking

Exposure to vitamin D and the great outdoors can lift your mood in its own right. When you combine this with hiking, you’ll double up on those benefits.

You don’t need to go over the top and start buying loads of expensive gear. Decent supportive shoes are essential and some form of backpack is ideal, but beyond that you don’t require anything except yourself and a suitable hiking trail. Don’t shortchange yourself here: pick somewhere as picturesque as possible to lift your body and mind.

3) Jogging or running

If your fitness levels are higher or you simply fancy more of a challenge, try some jogging or running.

For anyone suffering from joint problems, running on concrete is unwise. Instead, consider treating yourself to a new treadmill or a gym membership with the money you’re no longer spending on drink and drugs.

4) Swimming

Swimming is not only one of the most complete forms of exercise, but it’s also remarkably easy on the joints. For seniors or anyone grappling with arthritis, swimming gives you a robust workout without straining your joints.

Immersing yourself in water is soothing and therapeutic, and you’re not committed to swimming vigorous laps if you’re not too confident in the pool.

Aqua-aerobics classes are another fun way to stay active and connected to others during your recovery.

5) Yoga

Yoga is a powerful tool that can help you to relax while also staying active and flexible.

Many yoga classes also double up as a meditation class.

There are thirteen different types of yoga, so you can adopt a style that’s as active or gentle as you require. Most gyms and the majority of community centers offer yoga classes.

6) Weight training

You don’t need to be a giant to start lifting weights, but you do need to be prepared to put in a little research if you’re just starting out.

For beginners, even using light weights in combination with a clean, protein-rich diet can lead to fairly rapid gains of lean muscle. You’ll not only be improving your mood and strengthening your body, but your new and improved appearance should also deliver a powerful shot of self-confidence.

You don’t need to be a giant to start lifting weights, but you do need to be prepared to put in a little research if you’re just starting out. You don’t need to do deadlifts or any other heavy-weight workout straight away. Start small and focus on increasing the reps, not the weight. For beginners, even using light weights in combination with a clean, protein-rich diet can lead to fairly rapid gains of lean muscle. You’ll not only be improving your mood and strengthening your body, but your new and improved appearance should also deliver a powerful shot of self-confidence.

Weight lifting is not just for young people either. In healthy older individuals, lifting weights can help to stave off bone-mass loss and tissue loss, while at the same time improving physical strength.

Whatever your fitness levels, always seek expert advice before you start weight lifting.

7) Cycling

Cycling is a wonderful way to widen your horizons and explore some new areas that you might think twice about walking to reach.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a serviceable bicycle, and you could easily pick up a used bike if funds are tight.

Vigorous cycling can also be a powerful weight loss tool in combination with a balanced and low-fat diet, so you can whip yourself back into shape if alcohol abuse has left you bloated and puffy.

8) Dancing

Dancing is perfect if you want a form of exercise that doesn’t even feel like exercise.

From ballroom dancing and Latin dancing classes through to hip-hop dancing classes at your local gym, there’s no need to head to a nightclub to get dancing.

If you’re unsure whether you’ll enjoy the form of dancing in question, you’ll find most places will offer a free or no-obligation trial class.

9) Team sports

If you don’t like the idea of walking, running, or cycling alone, you could always investigate a team sport that appeals to you.

Joining a local football or basketball team will not only keep you fit and active, but it will also provide you with a ready-made network of people with healthy lifestyles.

10) Classes at your local gym

If you like the idea of joining a gym – and it can be a powerful motivator – check out the range of classes they offer.

From spinning and box-ercise to weight training and aerobics, there’s no excuse not to stay active in your recovery.

Kickstart Your Recovery at Renaissance

Maybe you haven’t yet committed to recovery and you realize the time is right. If so, we can help you every step of the way here at Renaissance Recovery.

Our highly personalized treatment programs for alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder utilize evidence-based strategies including medication-assisted treatment and psychotherapy to help minimize cravings and reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.

If you’re suffering from an underlying mental health condition co-occurring with an addiction, we have dual diagnosis treatment programs to help you tackle both issues simultaneously. This is proven effective for unpacking co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders.

When you’re ready to take the next step, the Renaissance Recovery team is waiting for your call at 866.300.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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