The Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Treatment & Recovery


The Hills Treatment Centre believes that achieving recovery from addiction requires treating the whole body. Exercise provides physical and psychological benefits and through exercise therapy, clients are able to be productive, accomplish goals and build camaraderie when working as part of a team.


How Does Exercise Help with Addiction?

Addiction leads to an array of emotional and physical health issues that are detrimental to one’s overall well-being. Exercise has many proven benefits and plays an important role in achieving and maintaining sobriety. Engaging in fitness activities help restore the mind-body connection.

Exercise improves brain chemistry through endorphin release and leads to enhanced mood. Exercise also helps decrease cravings and urges to use. The effects of exercise on the brain’s reward centres actually mimic those of addictive substances like opioids making exercising a quite enjoyable and much needed activity.

Along with the endorphin release elevating your mood, being physically active promotes self-esteem and self-confidence while reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, all of which help you to face the challenges of recovery.

The immense benefits of following a regular exercise routine to help maintain sobriety is often overlooked. When paired with effective addiction therapy, exercise reduces the risk of relapse by installing a routine, having less spare time and relieving emotional distress.


Benefits of Exercise on Mental Health

If the thought of regular exercise is daunting to you, know that it doesn’t take much to reap the benefits and experience the positive feelings you get from the endorphin production in your brain.


Mental health disorders like trauma, depression and anxiety often co-occur with addiction. Exercise improves mental health and leads to people having a better outlook on life. Other benefits of exercise on mental health include reducing stress, providing mental clarity, learning and better judgement skills.

5 Ways Exercise Helps in Recovery

1. Reduces Stress

Addiction treatment can be stressful and is a key contributor to relapse. One of the top benefits of exercise is its ability to reduce stress. Makes perfect sense how vital it is to incorporate physical fitness in one’s routine.

2. Better Sleep

Sleep issues are common for people in addiction and new to recovery. Regular exercise can improve the quality of your sleep and how much you’re getting.

3. Improved Mood

The feel-good chemicals that you once sought in your substance of choice can be naturally produced through exercise. It really is that easy. The endorphins released in as little as 30 minutes of exercise per day create the same effects in the brain as morphine – enhancing mood and making you feel happy.

4. Increased Energy

Addiction and the path to recovery can leave you feeling somewhat exhausted. Although you’re using energy to exercise, you get more back in return.

5. Relapse Prevention

The most important thing about exercise in recovery, is that it works. A number of studies have shown that regular exercise can actually increase the abstinence rate for substance use by a staggering 95%.


What Role Does Exercise Play in Recovery?

There are many tested and proven correlations between exercise and addiction recovery. The release of endorphins creates a natural high and has a huge impact on one’s ability to manage stress, get proper rest and feel happy.

According to a study by Frontiers in Psychiatry on the National Institute of Health, “Accumulating evidence shows that exercise influences many of the same signaling molecules and neuroanatomical structures that mediate the positive reinforcing effects of drugs. These studies have revealed that exercise produce protective effects in procedures designed to model different transitional phases that occur during the development of, and recovery from, a substance use disorder.”

In an interesting study conducted on rats, researchers offered the critters a dispenser with various drugs such as nicotine, amphetamines and morphine in it. The rats that used the wheel inside their cage, went for the dispenser far less than those that didn’t use the wheel at all.

Importance of Sleep in Recovery

Sleep is a crucial part of the recovery process and most people with addiction issues have poor sleep routines. Being able to perform to the best of your abilities and make the best choices, it’s essential to get the right amount of sleep.


Fatigue is a result of poor sleep quality and can lead to relapse. People in the early stages of recovery often have sleep disturbances due to withdrawal symptoms and adjusting to sobriety. Exercise actually stimulates the recuperative processes that rebuild strength and restore health during sleep. Research shows that engaging in at least 150 minutes of exercise each week can improve sleep quality by up to 65%. Also, if you exercise for a brief amount of time before bed, it causes your body to cool at a faster rate, which in turn makes it easier to fall asleep.

According to SMART Recovery, “As the body and mind continue to return to a more normal state, many people in recovery find exercise also helps restore a normal sleep schedule.”

What Exercises Are Best for Someone in Recovery

There is no one-size-fits-all for exercise, whether in recovery or not. Everyone enjoys different methods of getting their sweat on and there truly is no right or wrong way to being more active.

Running regularly is a great way to instil self-discipline, reduce stress and achieve personal goals. Running solo gives you the chance to process your thoughts and running with others is a great way to engage in the community.

Swimming is a low-impact cardio activity that is perfect for people with joint problems or an injury. Water relieves tension and the aches and pains that sometimes accompany withdrawal.

Cycling at a spin class or out on the trails is an amazing form of exercise that gets the blood flowing and burns calories while being easy on the body.

Yoga trains the body and mind and improves mental health, mindfulness and self-awareness while reducing stress and pain. Yoga has been shown to help people in recovery with cravings as well.

Team sports offer the benefits of exercise and provide social connection. You can establish healthy habits and build relationships by signing up to one of your favourite team sports.

Lifting weights is great for building strength and toning the body and has a positive impact on mental health.

Treatment at The Hills

The Hills Addiction Treatment Centre understands the importance of exercise and physical fitness and has an amazing gym and swimming pool onsite. Clients have lots of time designated for physical activities including 1:1 training with the best fitness instructor and group activities. The location of The Hills is absolutely stunning and morning cycles through these sleepy backroads of Mae Rim is one of the best ways you could ever start your day. To learn more about The Hills treatment program, you can contact them anytime.

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Are you in need of assistance on your journey to recovery? Contact us. We are here to help. At our reputable rehab center, we offer a complimentary consultation to provide guidance and support tailored to your specific needs.

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Dr. Sutthipan Takkapaijit

Dr. Sutthipan Takkapaijit

Clinical Psychiatrist

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