Addiction Coping and Recovery Overcoming Addiction Using Exercise to Aid Alcohol and Drug Recovery Multiple Benefits to Getting Active By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on January 18, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Getting Motivated Is the Key. © Getty Images Many professional alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation programs include exercise as part of an overall program to help patients maintain abstinence and develop a more healthy lifestyle. Many residential treatment centers feature fully-equipped exercise facilities on the premises. Traditionally, the main reason exercise has been recommended for those trying to quit alcohol and drugs is because it keeps them focused on something other than their withdrawal symptoms or cravings. Now, however, there may be evidence that exercise has additional benefits to those who want to avoid drinking and using drugs. Research Shows Exercise Can Help The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has set aside $4 million for scientific research to explore a possible role for physical activity in substance abuse and relapse prevention. When announcing the funding, NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow cited two studies that have shown exercise to be a benefit. In one, adolescents who exercised daily were half as likely to smoke cigarettes as their sedentary counterparts, and 40% less likely to experiment with marijuana. In another study, women who were in a smoking-cessation program doubled their chances of quitting by adding exercise to their routines three days a week, compared to women in the study who did not exercise. They also had less weight gain. Everyone Can Benefit If exercise can help people in residential treatment facilities and subjects in scientific studies, it can benefit anyone trying to quit drinking and drugging or striving to maintain abstinence. Exercise is something to which everyone has access. You don't have to become a world-class athlete to enjoy the benefits of exercise as part of your recovery. You don't have to join a professional gymnasium, hire a personal trainer or buy expensive equipment, although those options can be beneficial also. Exercise is something that you can do on your own. Before You Start Not everyone is healthy enough to jump right into a full-blown exercise regime. If you have not exercised lately and you have been sedentary for more than a year, see your doctor and get a check-up before you begin any exercise program. If you have any medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, you definitely need to check with your healthcare provider before beginning exercise. Also, if you are pregnant, have chronic back or neck pain or are recovering from an injury, check with your doctor first. Getting Motivated Sometimes, the hardest part of exercising is getting started. Long-time Verywell.com Exercise Expert Paige Waehner has some good tips on how to get motivated to exercise. She also points out how you can benefit from low-impact exercise, especially if you are a beginner. Differenes of Extrinsic and intrinsic Motivation The Mental Health Benefits of Physical Exercise Stress and Anxiety Sabotaged Exercise Motivation During the Pandemic, Study Says Walking for Your Health Walking is a form of exercise that almost anyone can do and it can have significant benefits -- not only for cardiovascular health but also for weight loss. Verywell.com Walking Expert Wendy Bumgardner has tips for those new to walking for exercise and warns about mistakes you should avoid. The Best Forms of Exercise to Improve Your Mood Use Walking Meditation for Stress Relief Jogging and Running If walking is not enough exercise to keep up your interest, running or jogging is another option that you can do without a lot of expensive equipment or memberships. Running and Jogging Guide Christine Luff has an eight-week plan to help you get started and some tips on avoiding pain and injuries. The Science Behind Runner's High and What to Do If You're Addicted What Are Endorphins? Inexpensive Exercise Options You can also participate in other forms of inexpensive but effective exercise. The following Verywell.com sites can provide you with the information you need to get started with these beneficial physical activities. Yoga Is the Best Way to Feel Less Stress From Work, Research Shows Best Guided Meditations Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. National Institute of Drug Abuse. "NIDA Explores Exercise as Drug Abuse Prevention Tool." June 2008. By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.