How Can Going to the Gym Help My Recovery from Addiction?

Many treatment facilities and sober living homes have been emphasizing the importance of physical health in sobriety. Some, like Camelback Recovery, even offer gym memberships to those attending their programs. What does exercise and going to the gym have to do with recovery from addictions? If addiction is rooted in the brain, how can physical activities help? Why are so many programs encouraging fitness in treatment? 

Addiction can be treated with holistic approaches, which involve both our physical and mental health. Holistic approaches are treatment methods and health habits that include strengthening the mind-body connection. We can help our minds recover by focusing on our physical health as well. During addiction, we may have allowed our physical health needs to fall by the wayside. We may have neglected healthy eating and exercise habits. Our physical health can impact how we feel and can play an essential role in our emotional regulation. 

Releasing “Feel Good” Chemicals

Exercise can help us manage anxiety and depression by burning off excess energy and releasing “feel good” chemicals in our brains. These chemicals are released in our minds when we do any physically exerting task. The “feel good” chemicals help us get through challenging physical exercise by rewarding us with good feelings in our minds. We may have used alcohol or other substances to release these chemicals artificially. However, alcohol, substances, or other addictions only provide temporary relief at a substantial cost to our overall physical health. The root cause of addiction may be an underlying issue with anxiety or depression (or both). By exercising or going to the gym during recovery, we can help to address this underlying issue by introducing a healthy habit into our lives.

Building Self-Esteem and Confidence

Exercising can provide us with challenges that we can use to boost our self-esteem and confidence. We can set goals in the gym and see the results as we watch our bodies change and grow stronger. When we accomplish goals or other physical achievements, we can notice a change to our mindset as we begin to believe in ourselves. We may be surprised at what we can accomplish in the gym! This confidence can carry over into other areas of our lives. If we can regularly tackle a challenge in the gym, we may feel more confident dealing with other obstacles on our path to recovery. 

Tips for Success in Exercise and Gyms

When we go to the gym, we may jump into the activity quickly and burn out within a few weeks. This can happen to a lot of people both in and out of recovery treatment. Gym memberships and attendance tend to spike following the New Year’s holiday, as people make vague health resolutions. As weeks go on, attendance drops as people fail to commit to their resolutions and new-found goals. Often, these people are unprepared for the commitment of building a weekly routine for their exercise goals. They also may not be prepared for the length of time required to form new habits and give up before giving themselves an appropriate amount of time to change. Here are some tips that we can use to be more successful in maintaining our exercise and gym routines:

  • Create a playlist of songs we enjoy. Music can help us focus on our exercise routines by cutting out other background noises that can be distracting. Music can also boost our mood or make us feel good or powerful! We might even find that we enjoy going to the gym as a time to listen to our favorite songs.
  • Pick the right time. Many people think that we have to work out in the mornings to get the best results. The truth is that the best time to exercise is whenever we are exercising! Finding a time that will work best for ourselves will help us stick to our new habits. For some people, this is before or after work. Others may have extended lunch breaks and can exercise at this time.
  • Go with a partner. Starting a new workout routine can be challenging to do alone. We might know someone else interested in our new goal. Our gym partner can help to support us and keep us motivated. They can also help to hold us accountable.
  • Set a goal. Our goals to exercise can be simple. We may want to keep a number in mind to help us stick to the plan. Our goal can be something like, “I will run on the treadmill for 20 minutes, three times per week.” Another goal may be, “I will complete a weight lifting routine four times per week.” (Bonus tip: when starting with exercise, set a goal around building the routine and not losing a specific amount of body weight, running a certain speed or benching pressing a set amount of weight.) As we build the habit of going to the gym or routine exercise, we can then start to work towards those other goals. Keep it simple at first!)


Physical health and wellness can go a long way in our recovery. We can open the door to forming new healthy habits, building new friendships, and building our self-confidence by exercising regularly. Many recovery treatment facilities and sober living homes emphasize the importance of maintaining our physical health needs as we form healthy habits during recovery. Addiction can take a tremendous toll on our physical selves. We may have gained weight or lost strength due to our bad habits. We may get winded easily and struggle to get through the day. By building up our physical selves, we can be strong to face the daily challenges of recovery! Camelback Recovery understands the critical role that healthy eating and exercise can play in addiction treatment. Call us at (602) 466-9880 to discuss how our sober living programs can help you with your whole-health needs!

How Does My Physical Health Impact my Emotional Wellbeing?

We are all working towards progress and bettering ourselves throughout early recovery. It is always our goal to keep working towards being the best people that we can be. Our recovery process gives us the tools we need to keep our mental health in the best spot. Throughout the entire treatment process, you will be taught specific tools that you can use to keep your head up, even through trials and low places.

We all know that mental illness doesn’t stop for recovery. Instead, it will continue to affect us in many ways and hound the steps we take in recovery. A good part of our lives will be spent focusing on learning what we can about ourselves, and how we can continue to adapt to what life throws at us. Still, recovery isn’t just about keeping our mental health in good shape through brain exercises.

We must also understand that physical fitness is vital to our mental health. Many people lose sight of the importance of physical health and how it works in conjunction with our mental health. But realizing its importance is powerful in helping our lives stay positive as we journey through recovery.

The Wondrous Inter-Connectivity of the Human Body

Our body and its many processes are complex and connected. Our mental state is closely linked to our physical health. Through physical exercise and activity, we can release feel-good chemicals and endorphins through our bodies, helping our moods and emotions improve.

A lot of times, just a quick 10-minute walk can make you feel way better than before. Sometimes all it takes is getting out of the house and into the outdoors. Getting fresh air and feeling the sunshine, in conjunction with the physical exertion, are a great recipe to help yourself feel the best that you can.

Even tending to your garden can be enough to boost your mood and increase feelings of positivity. Combine that with a proper diet, full of nutritious and healthy food, and you can increase that even more. There are a ton of different kinds of food that we need to take in to help our bodies work as efficiently as they can.

Essential fats, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and water are integral parts of living a healthy life. Each of these things keeps your body oiled like a well-tuned machine, and encourages clear, positive thinking.

The Physical & Mental Impact of Addiction

This also means that a physical condition can cause you to suffer, mentally. If you are a smoker, it can really cause damage to your health. Obviously, we all know about the physical issues that it can cause. Still, those issues will then spill over into our mental health as well.

The nicotine in cigarettes can cause an imbalance with the chemicals in your brain. In the short-term, nicotine can boost dopamine production in your brain, and dopamine is a chemical that influences positive feelings. But, in the long-run, nicotine will shut down the natural dopamine factories in our brains.

Over a more extended period, we won’t produce the amount of dopamine that we need, resulting in lower positivity levels and a higher feeling of sadness or depression. Additionally, the ways that nicotine shuts down dopamine in the brain means that a person will become addicted to smoking to get that little hit of nicotine and experience a bump in dopamine.

Obviously, addiction is a massive problem for anyone, and avoiding it is paramount in leading a good life. Avoiding any sort of substance use in life after recovery is an essential tactic for everyone. Don’t let the short bursts of positivity you may feel convince you that you need to indulge, but steer clear of anything that can cause these kinds of imbalances.

Remember, recovering addicts are still extremely vulnerable to other addictive behaviors and substances. Remember that everything is connected in our bodies. Keeping our physical health up to par is just as important as practicing our breathing exercises or meditation.

We must also seek balance with all things in life. Make sure to keep your physical health in peak condition so that your brain doesn’t have to suffer. Always keep every avenue of improvement open and help make sure that your body and mind are working together to be successful. You deserve that kind of happiness, and you deserve to know how to reach that happiness. You will find that sense of peace, and you can do anything you put your mind to.

The body is an incredible piece of machinery, but it requires ongoing maintenance to operate at peak performance. Most people in early recovery have fallen into unhealthy habits, leaving both body and mind malnourished. At Camelback Recovery, you’ll find a sober living community ready to provide you with the tools you’ll need to fulfill all the necessary elements of wellness. If you’re ready to get sober, it’s time to lean on the experience and strength of others who have come before you. Sobriety is not as uncharted as it may seem. Through a holistic recovery program, you can heal spiritually, mentally, and physically – you just need the time to do so. At Camelback Recovery, you’ll find the community you’re looking for and the experienced guidance you need. Give us a call at (602) 466-9880. Getting sober isn’t easy, but it can be an exciting period of your life, filled with transformational experiences and incredible growth.

Why Are Healthy Eating & Fitness Important In Addiction Recovery?

People recovering from substance abuse are looking for healthy habits to replace the old bad habits of drinking and using. Replacing bad habits with healthy ones helps to increase your quality of life, prevent relapse, and give you a sense of purpose.

A healthy diet and exercising are vital for those in recovery. A specialized professional can supervise a plan to make sure you stay on track. Partaking in such activities heals your body from the inside out, which can only help after putting poison into your body for an extended amount of time.

Diet and exercise also have an impact on your overall quality of life in sobriety. You can stay motivated by maintaining this sense of structure in your life, while also practicing an important form of self-care.

A Healthy Die

Many addicts’ brains constantly crave sources of dopamine. If they are not receiving a sufficient amount from their diet, they are likely to seek it elsewhere from unhealthy places. A well-balanced diet that gives you continual energy and makes you feel good is crucial to success in recovery.

What Foods Are Best for Those in Recovery?

It’s important to remember that your body is gradually healing as it goes through recovery. Because of this, simple sugars and refined flour should be avoided. Both can cause the brain to heal more slowly, while inhibiting the body’s overall ability to recover.

Make sure you are choosing from the various food groups:

  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Bread and grains

By providing yourself with the proper foods, vitamins, and minerals, you are giving yourself a better chance at recovery. This is because the lack of a proper diet can lead to symptoms of withdrawal, ultimately causing the individual to feel discouraged in their sobriety.

Addicts & Malnutrition

Many addicts have several nutritional deficiencies as a result of their past substance abuse. These deficiencies can cause changes in brain function, damage internal organs, damage teeth, and even suppress growth.

Drinking alcohol in excessive amounts can lead to liver disease, pancreatitis, brain damage, pregnancy complications, and other health issues. By restoring your body with healthy foods, you are giving yourself the best chance at recovery by healing your body in conjunction with exercise.

Regular Exercise

Exercise adds structure to your day by giving you something to do at specific times. It can also help combat boredom, which can be a trigger for some in recovery. After exercising, individuals feel more in control, and like they have a sense of balance in their lives.

Physical activities are easy to quantify and keep track of. This promotes positive reinforcement as you show yourself that you are committed to your health, your recovery, and ultimately, your success by checking it off your daily to-do list. Exercise also gives you physical results that you can see and feel.

Exercise can benefit your mental health as well. Regular exercise helps fight anxiety and depression because it releases natural endorphins into the brain. This positive mental state can be activated and maintained after exercise as you go about your day.

Start Small

You don’t have to start exercising intensely. In fact, it is recommended to begin with low-intensity activities and gradually working your way up to more high-intensity exercises. Start by doing yoga or going for a daily walk, then work yourself up to running, riding a bike, or playing sports. By continuing to take small steps in your exercise schedule, you will begin feeling better about yourself as you build self-esteem and confidence.

Exercise & Other Health Issues

Substance abuse can be linked to other mental disorders such as depression and anxiety and health issues such as hypertension and diabetes. Exercise helps to combat these health concerns by lowering blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Physical activity also helps fight against depression by stimulating serotonin production in your brain.

Too Much of a Good Thing

It’s important to note that you can actually exercise too much. Many addicts have the mentality that if something in a small quantity is good, then more of it must be great. For example, if 30 minutes of running feels good, then two hours of running must feel incredible. But if your body is not prepared, strenuous exercise like this can result in severe injuries.

This mentality of excessive exercise is connected to the fact that people with addictive personalities are constantly seeking instant gratification. This is why it’s important for an exercise physiologist or another trained specialist who is familiar with patients in addiction recovery to monitor your exercise routine.

Fitness Community

A sense of community support is crucial for those recovering from substance abuse. By joining exercise groups, running marathons, or attending exercise classes, you are able to feel like you are a part of something bigger. You can also create strong friendships that give you support to lean on.

Balancing a healthy diet and a new exercise routine can be challenging, especially for those who are just entering recovery. But if you make the effort, your body will thank you for it.

Are you struggling with sobriety? A sober living home may be the answer. Camelback Recovery provides a wide variety of services under the umbrella of sober living and recovery coaching. Everything we offer has been specifically selected to contribute towards your recovery journey and long-term sobriety. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 to get started.