Find Your Balance: Exercise for Addiction Recovery

The following post was written by Susan Treadway.  Susan is an addict in recovery. She uses a holistic approach to sobriety to stay on a successful path and believes adopting even a few holistic methods can help anyone struggling with addiction. She wants everyone to know that you don’t have to be a hippie to embrace holistic wellness – this concept is simply about focusing on your entire sense of well-being rather than just one part. She hopes her website,, will inspire anyone who has struggled with addiction to incorporate holistic practices into their own self-care routine.


Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” And this is true in more ways than one. If you are recovering from addiction you understand that achieving balance is an everyday struggle. Looking ahead and moving the body are two ways to ensure that you achieve and maintain it. Physical exercise is not only a wholesome pastime, but a way towards the essential balance needed to keep moving forward.

Addiction recovery is not black and white; it is complex, often including co-occurring issues. Cardiovascular activity will help mitigate these issues by targeting the root of the problem. Someone who suffers from anger issues as well as addiction will experience benefits on both fronts. This is because physical activity will help increase energy and restore balance in the brain and in the body’s response to stress. It will fortify your ability to deal with things and make clear decisions. Consequently, by reducing stress and increasing a sense of well-being, feelings of anger and frustration subside.


The Physiological Benefits

As Huffington Post reports, engaging in strenuous exercise produces a feeling of natural high that proves effective when combating addiction. This helps to replace one feel good activity for another, helping establish a positive reward system associated with exercise.

The natural high comes from the release of chemicals in the brain, like endorphins which produce a feeling of euphoria and happiness. The release of these neurotransmitters actually helps mitigate both physical and mental pain.

Restore Equilibrium

These effects on the brain help to stabilize mood, sleep cycles, and focus. Fitness magazine writes that exercise aids in better decision making, which in turn leads to establishing stability in one’s life and routine.

Studies by the National Institute of Health show that stress and addiction play off of each other. Thus, combating one will help mitigate the other. Physical activity is proven to combat stress through its various neurological and physical benefits.


Circulation and Energy Level

Livestrong reports that exercise does wonders for circulation. Improvement in circulation helps carry vital oxygen and glucose to the brain.  By increasing circulation, the body will have more energy throughout the day, increasing productivity and a sense of wellbeing.


You are What You Eat

Exercise does wonders, but its effects are minimal if coupled with a bad diet. When implementing physical activity to your life, you must include a change in diet which corresponds and compliments your movement. U.S News reports that healthy eating habits play a vital role in the early recovery process.

Implement trips to the grocery store and planning ahead will combat the last-minute urges to hit the drive thrus. Slowly get yourself off the junk food, avoid processed sugars and packaged meals and eat simple and balanced diet of proteins, carbs, and healthy fats. The New York Times writes that learning to take care of all of you, is essential for a full recovery without relapse and adverse effects like weight gain. Become conscious of your eating before or after workouts, so you are not straining yourself and depriving your body of necessary nutrients.


How to Maintain the Routine

If you’ve been away from physical activity for a while, implementing exercise and a new diet into your daily routine will take some effort. Most of the time, the positive effects will be motivation enough for you to hit the gym, but any lifestyle choice takes a constant awareness and mindfulness.

  • Hold yourself accountable by creating a schedule for yourself ahead of time. This will make you feel responsible for days missed and help structure your days.
  • Vary the physical activities so you are trying out new things and exploring new exercises. Try a variety of activities like running and hiking mixed with visits to the gym.
  • Find a buddy for motivation. Having someone to do the activities with, will help with commitment.


As Einstein said, we must keep moving forward. We must move our minds and bodies in order to find that inner balance. In the process, we discover new paths and new opportunities that might take us farther than we ever thought possible.