How to Keep a Proper Fitness Routine in Recovery

By Dominic Nicosia – April 17, 2022

Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is a mental AND physical pursuit. The brain and the body are connected, especially when it comes to rewards systems, tolerance, cravings, withdrawal symptoms and other factors that can affect sobriety and lead to relapse. Taking care of the body in long-term recovery helps to ease withdrawal symptoms, increase mobility, improve circulation and better manage the long-term physical issues associated with addiction that can impact the quality of life.  

The problem is, for as much as many of us hate the tyrannical yolk of the daily workout, it can be even harder when we’re dealing with physical health issues related to substance use. Luckily, we have some tips on maintaining a consistent fitness routine in recovery. Check them out!

Focus on Your Immediate Needs

 You eat an elephant one bite at a time (not really, don’t eat elephants, but you get the idea). Instead of trying to tackle everything at once and turn yourself into a superhuman, figure out what your immediate medical needs are and develop a workout routine that serves those needs. Do you just need to get your heart rate up? Do you need to focus on increasing muscle and joint mobility? Do you need to get stronger? Start with specifically targeted exercises that can help with these needs. 

Man doing yoga.

Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard… at First 

In keeping up with our “slow and steady wins the race” theme, it’s important to start with manageable goals and perspectives. Don’t try to lift too much, run too fast or push yourself in any other way that will compromise your ability to stay consistent. If you’re unable to maintain physical activity each day because you injured yourself during the prior day’s workout, it will be much harder to get back into a routine. As you get comfortable and familiar, you can push yourself a little harder each day. 

Quality Over Quantity  

Don’t worry about doing a million reps. Focus more on form and getting 10 to 15 quality reps with the proper form to ensure you’re getting the most out of your workout. There are countless videos on how to properly and safely do almost any exercise, from beginner to advanced. Give yourself a refresher course if you think you need it. 

It’s Your Move, Enjoy It  

Find a workout and exercise routine that you actually like and will enjoy doing. This may take a while, but you can experiment with different routines until you find the right one for you. There are seemingly endless ways to stay active and only one way not to — staying still. Hit a bag, go for a jog, do a dance; just get moving. 

Beyond the Body: Benefits of Working Out in Recovery  

Working out in recovery goes a long way to alleviate many of the immediate physical and quality-of-life issues associated with substance abuse. It also helps to improve confidence, provides much-needed structure and routine, gives you goals to focus on and keeps you accountable to self-discipline. Try working out with a friend or joining a class to make it more social, if that’s your thing. Your body and brain will thank you.


 About the Author

Dominic Nicosia smiling at the camera.

Dominic Nicosia is a New Jersey-based journalist and content writer covering addiction care and mental health. He currently serves as Senior Content Writer for Recovery Unplugged Treatment Centers, a national addiction treatment organization that offers a full continuum of care and uses music to help people more readily embrace the treatment process.


Related Articles