How exercise aids in addiction recovery

March 29, 2017
Johann Kassim

They are all forms of physical movement or exercise. There are many ways exercise can aid recovery from addiction:

Exercise Relieves and Reduces Stress

Recovery is life without using and drinking. There are many reasons why we become stressed on a daily basis. From bad posture during work to troubling interpersonal relationships; stress is an inevitable presence in life. However, being in recovery, we can no longer resort to the old way of picking up our addiction when life throws us a challenge. Here, exercise is the perfect replacement for stress relief. It can help us release difficult or pent-up emotions like anger, sadness and frustration.

Exercise is a form of Physical Mindfulness

In tandem with relieving and reducing stress, exercise is a locus of mindfulness. The specific movements involved in exercise takes the focus away from one’s problems and negativities. Thus, one can be assured of mental and emotional clarity after a good exercise session. This can be very useful for those in early recovery as it aids in the forgetting of negative obsessions and compulsive urges that usually follow a lengthened period of sobriety. This is the reason why the MAYO clinic has described exercise as “meditation in motion”, because as meditation uses the breath as a focus, exercise uses the specific physical motions as a locus of attention, thus disrupting strong negativities that may pop up in recovery.

Exercise alters Brain Chemistry

The good news for those craving for the stimulus of drugs and alcohol is that our bodies are capable of producing those highs internally. These beauties are known as Beta-Endorphins and Endocannabinoids and they can be released due to physical exertion, which is what exercise is. Therefore, exercise re-introduces the natural levels of these brain chemicals, which help to reduce craving. Instead of seeking the highs externally, exercise regulates mood in a healthier way.

Exercise detoxifies the body

Exercise manages to detoxify the body via the cycle of hydration and sweat. While exercising, we are encouraged to drink lots of water, which will then be excreted along with the toxins that our body has kept from active addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Exercise provides Healing

Exercise restores the circadian cycle, which had been disrupted in active addiction, giving us restful sleep, which aids in much physical healing. Alongside adequate and restful sleep, which indirectly aids the mind and body in numerous ways; exercise in and of itself also staves various illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Additionally, new nerve connections are also made within the brain as a result of regular exercise.  All of this shows that having a good exercise regime provides physical healing in recovery.

Exercise is a Healthy and Productive Time-Filler

With addiction gone, there is a need to fill up the time once used in active addiction. Idle time can be dangerous because it is a time when much thoughts for using return and build momentum to an eventual relapse. To counter this, exercise is a productive and healthy time-filler. It keeps euphoric re-call and dwelling at bay because it is a focused, participatory and equally engaging activity.

Exercise mitigates the negative effects of withdrawal

Addicts in early recovery suffer from Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). The symptoms of PAWS can last between 6 months to a year. Addicts will experience heightened anxiety, depression, cravings and stress as a result of withdrawing from active addiction. Exercise anesthetizes these symptoms. Being a mindfulness-enhancing activity, exercise can help addicts weather numerable crises that arise as a result of PAWS. You may read our in-house article on PAWS, by clicking here.

Exercise improves appearance and esteem

Exercising regularly helps to reduce or increase one’s weight to an ideal. This improves personal appearance and to a certain extent one’s esteem. Esteem is further enhanced when one gains a sense of accomplishment, pride and self-worth as a result of engaging and enduring challenging physical activities. The transformation of body and the attainment of physical goals give exercise an ennobling feature.  

Exercising at The Solace Sabah

At The Solace Sabah, we will teach you how to exercise to aid your recovery. Here, we cover cross-fit, yoga, sports, runs, and walks, to name a few:


We have cross-fit classes twice a week. Our in-house fitness instructor is a trained cross-fit athlete. He is a specialist in his field and will assess you for your fitness goals. He will also plan the exercises to suit your physical capabilities in the present. Over time, you will be able to handle more challenging exercise routines. Cross-fit is a fast way of progressing your fitness levels from amateur to athletic.


Every week, we hold yoga sessions, when requested. Our yoga tutor will bring you through various twists, turns, and poses. From what i've been told, yoga means "yuj", which means to unite or combine in Sanskrit. What do we combine in Yoga?

It's the fact that each pose represents a physical, mental, and spiritual aspect of being. Each pose is to bring the poser into the present moment. For example, a balancing pose could do well for our sense of balance. At the same time, it helps to give us mental clarity. Whilst it also informs us of the need for a balanced life.

Whatever level you may be at, rest assured that at The Solace Sabah, our tutor will guide you from where you are. The one caution is to only stretch as far as you deem comfortable. The aim of yoga is finding the most comfort in the least comfortable situations.


Every week, we bring our clients out to play sports. It can be in the form of street football (Futsal), badminton, or swimming. These activities are an alternative way to exercise. At the same time, they get to enjoy the social interaction that happens in competitive sport. Or as a way to while away the day with friends in recovery.

There is also a table-tennis and basketball facility within our treatment grounds. So, now and again, participating in a game or two; is a fine way for interacting in good sport.

Other Forms of Exercise

Clients will get the chance to perform other forms of exercise. For example, we take clients for walks and runs by the beach or in the park. Also, our extensive grounds at the treatment site is  great for walking and running.

Physical Well-being at The Solace Sabah

Much suffering results from an inactive or under-active body. Science has proven that physical movement is a necessary need for healing and growth. When your body moves, your mind improves. The approach we take at The Solace Sabah is a holistic improvement of mind, body, psyche, and spirit. Addiction as an illness of all four aspects, will be difficult to treat should we disregard one area of our life. Value your life, value exercise at The Solace Sabah.

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