Fitness for Recovery: 15 Workouts That Saved My Life

Exercise can be an incredible asset to those who are recovering from substance abuse and addiction.

As a recovering addict and as the owner of several successful rehabilitation facilities, I know the importance of exercise. Below I share my responses to some of the frequently asked questions I receive about recovery and fitness and explain how exercise helped me and countless others recover from addiction.


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How does exercise help addicts in recovery? Research has proven that a fitness routine can benefit recovering addicts. Substance abuse wreaks havoc on the mind, body, and spirit. Exercise is one of the few treatment options that helps mend all three of those aspects at once.

Exercise relieves stress, which in turn, helps create a positive outlook on life. When addicts begin to see and feel improvement, they gain a sense of pride and confidence. This feeling of wellbeing can produce similar effects to meditation, creating the right state of mind for recovery. Additionally, research shows that exercise helps rebalance brain chemistry. Often, drugs and alcohol have altered the brain’s functioning, and exercise can return the imbalance to normal levels.

What exercises would you recommend for recovering addicts? I have seen the benefits of exercise for recovering addicts, first hand. The following workouts played a role in my recovery and the recovery of countless others:

  1. Walking: Starting out slow is essential to any fitness routine, especially for individuals have experienced the trauma of substance abuse. Start with a brisk 20-30 minute walk every day.
  2. Jogging: Once you have built up enough stamina, start jogging. Getting your heart pumping will help return the body to its natural state.
  3. Swimming: The fluidity and weightlessness of swimming helps addicts find an inner peace and calmness after each workout.
  4. Yoga: helps individuals concentrate on every small movement of their bodies, while focusing on proper breathing techniques. For many, this helps restore balance to the mind, body, and spirit.
  5. Tennis: is a great way to work out any inner feelings of anger. Importantly, you don’t always need a partner, just a ball, racket, and a solid wall.
  6. Abdominal Exercises: Focusing on the abs is a great way to strengthen your core. This produces a sense of vigor that can radiate throughout your body.
  7. Hiking: Nothing is more soothing than connecting with nature. Hiking can be a great cardio workout, but can also help build a relationship with the outside world.
  8. Kayaking: Kayaking combines the weightlessness of swimming with the peacefulness of hiking, creating inner strength and a sense of calmness.
  9. Weight Lifting: Weight lifting is a great way to track physical progress and, therefore, build self-confidence.
  10. Team Sports: Sports such as soccer or basketball are a great way to improve communication skills and become part of something that is bigger than yourself. It is also a good way to introduce healthy competition into your life.
  11. Martial Arts: There is no better way to built discipline and focus than through martial arts, such as karate or Tae Kwan Do.
  12. Pilates: Like yoga, Pilates can help create a sense of calm, while also strengthening your body.
  13. Biking: Cycling is a great way to build muscle, while also satisfying your sense of adventure.
  14. Golf: While it may not seem very strenuous, golf helps build discipline. It is also a great time to practice stress control.
  15. Dancing: There is no better way to introduce fun into your fitness routine than with dance.

Per Wickstrom is the founder and CEO of Best Drug Rehabilitation, one of the top holistic rehabilitation centers in the country. He found sobriety after a decades-long struggle with addiction and has since dedicated his life and career to helping others find the same life-affirming success he has. For more information, visit, check out Per’s blog or connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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