Exercise Offers Benefits for Healthy Living and Recovery

Friends playing Basketbal

Americans struggle with drug and alcohol addiction in increasing numbers each year, a problem that has transcended crisis and epidemic levels and has become a National Public Health Emergency. As the issue has become more severe, the American people have become more interested in finding solutions to it. More research and resources have been dedicated to the quest of removing the addiction issue from our nation, a nationwide effort that couldn’t have come at a better time. Just one series of research is beginning to show the almost endless benefits that exercise brings to individuals in recovery.

While it has always been known more or less that exercise was a beneficial thing for recovering addicts to do, it hasn’t been until recently that the exact science on this has been so well laid out. In just the next few paragraphs, we’ll show exactly how and why exercise is so helpful for recovering addicts in any stage of the recovery adventure.

Research Indicates Exercise is Exceptionally Helpful for Recovering Addicts

We already know that exercise has great benefits for people. Exercise relieves stress. It boosts mood. Exercise increases body image. Regular exercise releases depression and anxiety. Exercise improves psychological stability and mental health in general. But on top of that, we have now learned irrefutably that exercise improves mental health too.

New research on the subject of exercise and the effect it has on cravings for drugs and alcohol was published in a recent issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. The research came out of the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions. According to the compiled data, when a person exercises, this elevates mood and actually reduces the psychological and physical cravings for drugs and alcohol.

According to the Lisa Robison, research associate for the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions:

“Exercise is a natural reward like food and sex: Exercise releases endorphins and increases the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain's reward pathway in a way [that's] similar to drugs and alcohol. This may bring a person enough pleasure so as to not seek it out by using drugs.”

And the data from the University at Buffalo Research is just information from one study. There are many others that indicate exercise as being a great way to stay sober.

Another batch of research came out of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City which indicated that people who exercise statistically speaking feel better and have improvements in their mood, and by that alone are less likely to abuse drugs. According to Dr. Jordan Metzl, author of The Exercise Cure:

“When you feel better you're less likely to engage in things that are bad for you. Exercise brings a dopaminergic surge that makes you feel better.”
Two runners

“When you feel better you're less likely to engage in things that are bad for you. Exercise brings a dopaminergic surge that makes you feel better.”

Another study was done in Europe and was published in a recent issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. This research put individuals with current alcohol abuse problems and put them through a running or jogging program. In the program, participants had to run or jog for thirty to forty-five minutes, twice a week. For those who participated, their alcohol consumption decreased by eighty-one percent. Certainly not a “cure” or a full solution to their alcohol addictions, but a boon nonetheless.

What Exercise Does for a Person in Recovery

While exercise is certainly not a singular approach for helping people erase addiction from their lives, we can’t deny that exercise has a miraculous result on the human body and spirit. The working of the body, endorphin release, activation of areas of the brain usually subdued by drugs and alcohol, it all combines to make a very beneficial and necessary step to the addiction recovery process.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.