Beat Addiction Through Fitness

By Jason Lewis.

Addiction recovery is rarely an easy road. For some, the process of recovery is lifelong, with the threat of relapse ready to knock at the door anytime. Because of the perniciousness of addiction, overcoming it often requires a radical life change. And since it is never truly cured, beating addiction requires sustained healthy living for life. Fitness is one way to force out the places where substances take hold.

Exercise’s Benefits To Recovery

Physical fitness helps give us energy to face our addictions each day. With a healthy body, we are more able to fight. Its ability to empower is the first main benefit of fitness to recovery. Often, those who are using substances are mired in an unhealthy physical state. Their energy is low, so they use substances to compensate. They feel chronic pain, and try to numb it with alcohol, pills and other drugs. When we are physically fit, we feel better without the need for self-medication.

The Runner’s High

Another way exercise benefits recovery is through the natural high that we experience through exercise. Many of us have heard of the exhilarating flow of adrenaline and endorphins that athletes call a runner’s high. Endorphins are natural painkillers produced by our brains in response to distress, such as that from exercise. While many report feelings of elation when a runner’s high kicks in, it is subtle and elusive to some. Endorphins are not solely triggered by running, however, and play a role in workouts and sports, too. And other brain chemicals are at play, too, when we work out, even some that mimic how marijuana affects the brain. 

It Fills Time

Exercise benefits those in recovery in how it simply occupies our time. When we spend an hour at the gym, that is one less hour of free time that could derail our recovery. This method of warding off bad behavior with good behavior is an important component of sustainable change. When we fill our lives with positivity and healthy pursuits, we no longer have time for unhealthy things, and the boredom, depression and other circumstances that may have prompted the drug use or drinking may also disappear.  

Finding Balance

Since balance is necessary for recovery, exercise alone cannot change our lives. Some people often end up replacing an addiction to drugs or alcohol with an obsession for exercise. While an exercise obsession is preferable to a descent back into substance abuse, overdoing exercise may do unintended harm.

To avoid overdoing exercise, those in recovery can incorporate self-care in aiming for an all-around healthy routine. Self-care combined with fitness in recovery can mean listening to your body and knowing when to take a rest day. It can also mean eating a balanced diet, which, in turn, improves exercise performance and discourages putting unhealthy things into our bodies.

In addition, stress management and understanding triggers to relapse are crucial to recovery. Exercise can keep an addict focused and occupied on healthy pursuits, but it may not remove outside stressors that result in substance use. It is important to know yourself and your triggers. While fitness can be empowering, it may also give a false sense of security, making someone in recovery feel that they can go to the bar and have a coffee or be around people who are using drugs. These triggers are likely stronger than your drive for a healthy life.

Getting Started

The best rule of thumb when choosing an exercise routine is to find something you enjoy and that you can come back to again and again, adjusting for plateaus as necessary. Don’t force yourself into an activity you don’t like; this could backfire and contribute to lack of motivation. A great solution for those who don’t know what they want to do is to work with a personal trainer. Having the guidance of a professional will ensure you have workouts that are customized for your circumstances and it will help you feel more accountable. 

It’s also important to remove any obstacles to exercising. Sometimes this means spending money, like joining a gym, buying new athletic apparel, wearables or equipment, purchasing new running shoes or spending money to work with a personal trainer. Remember, however, that this is an investment in yourself and, arguably, your future. 

Fitness is a component of overall well-being that is necessary for managing addiction. Exercise, self-care and self-knowledge each contribute to an arsenal against relapse.


If you’re ready to train and you’re looking for amazing results, connect with personal trainer Chris Brown of CGB Fitness. From online coaching to partner training to 1:1 training, Chris has a program that works for anyone. Reach out today to find out more.