Fitness Programme - Rehab Guide

Fitness Programme

Fitness Programme


Exercise In Addiction Recovery

To live a healthy life; you have to treat mind, body, and spirit. This can be especially true when dealing with the treatment of addiction.

People who, in the past, have seen their health ravaged by drug or alcohol use, may wish to address the balance by beginning a new fitness programme. They may even make getting fit an important part of their addiction treatment.

Seratonin, dopamine and alcohol addiction

When we exercise our body releases dopamine and serotonin. These are neurotransmitters that control the reward centre of our brain (how we feel happiness and pleasure). Drinking alcohol increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin in our brain which is why it can feel good short term.

If you drink too much and too often the body adjusts to these levels meaning your feeling of happiness can only be achieved through drinking. Even then the brain has more tolerance so you need more alcohol to keep that feeling. This is one reason that many people with alcohol addiction also suffer from depression and anxiety, both are related to serotonin and dopamine.

What kind of fitness programme should I be doing?

Rehab Fitness Group


Whether you are hiking in the countryside or just going for a stroll in the park walking is a low impact exercise perfect for recovery. Detox can leave you feeling tired and down which means a slow start is best. Add to this the health and mood-lifting benefits of being outside in nature and walking is one of our best-recommended exercises.

  • Start with a 30-minute walk for a week
  • Add 15 mins twice a week
  • Don’t rush, enjoy your walk
  • Take a supportive sober friend for company

Yoga, Pilates & Meditation

Addiction and mental health issues go together for many in recovery. They may not be a tough workout but yoga, pilates and meditation classes such as tai-chi can work on feeling better. These are exercises that get more challenging as you go along meaning a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.


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Running offers all the benefits of walking, nature, company and sunshine, but a cardio workout too. This is best done after the doctor has cleared you for exercise as it is a higher impact sport. Running is also a much-loved hobby for many and a good way to meet new healthy and sober friends.

  • Warm-up for 5-10 mins
  • Run as far as you feel comfortable
  • Build each day by 5 mins more running
  • Don’t feel pressured, if you can’t keep going walk instead

Indoor Swimming

Another low impact sport that has a feel-good serotonin and dopamine release is swimming. This is a good way to start exercising if you have physical issues that prevent impact sports. Swimming relieves the strain on your body and can be a relaxing time for contemplation.

Wild Swimming

Wild Swimming

The UK’s latest craze after the COVID pandemic is swimming outside in the sea, rivers and lakes. A huge bonus to this exercise is its health and mood benefits. Just being outside can lift your mood and cool water invokes a response that has helped people deal with conditions from chronic pain to depression.

  • Stick to summer months at first
  • Take a swimming buddy
  • Start slowly with just a dip for 2-3 mins
  • Safety first – take a float and only swim where it is calm and safe

General Advice for Fitness in Recovery

When using the gymnasiums at our rehab clinics, you will be closely supervised to ensure safety.  If you are doing a medical detox wait to use the exercise equipment until it is completed. Safety is, of course, the top priority.

At the start walking is good enough, but your body will become accustomed to walking and will want a more rigorous routine. Yoga, treadmills, tennis, weights & horse riding are all great ways to exercise as well as a way to develop new hobbies. Stretching before these activities is important as it increases & maintains a range of motion in the joints, aids the recovery process by increasing circulation & decreasing muscle tension.

How important is it to get out of breath when I’m exercising?

When your body recovers from being out of breath, it is a rejuvenating experience where your physical systems work together – a concert of strengthening, stretching, hydration, nutrition, & confidence. It also helps you develop increased functional movements & the ability to improve daily activities with a decrease in pain or discomfort. The result is a greater ability to enjoy a walk, to complete sport-specific movements with greater ease.

Should I stay on a fitness program after addiction treatment?

Once you have a fitness programme that works for you, the one that taxes your system & lets your body enjoy the rejuvenating experience of having all your physical systems work together, you’ll never want to stop. At this point maintaining good health, posture & energy will become a life habit.

Exercise as Addiction Treatment

Rehab Guide

While it cannot be the sole treatment, there are studies revealing that regular exercise is a potential treatment for drug addiction.

Exercise, when combined with other proven forms of addiction treatment, has been shown to produce protective effects in addiction recovery tied to the neurobiological and behavioural consequences of physical activity.

When you arrive at an addiction recovery centre, a therapist will assess the nature of your addiction and your mental health status. A treatment team will then create an individualised treatment plan designed to meet your personal needs.

If you know that you’d like to have an exercise programme built into your addiction recovery program, talk to your therapist about it.

Fitness Programs in Rehab

Each rehab is different. Some will have a fitness programme with on-site gyms or outside courts that you can use at designated times. Others will have a recreational therapist or a personal trainer on staff to provide fitness-related workshops.

Contact our addiction experts they can help you find an addiction treatment centre ideal for your personal needs. This is your chance to break free from harmful substances and learn a new way to live. Contact us now to find out more about our various treatment options.

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Sources Can cold water swimming treat depression? Alcohol and Dopamine Serotonin’s Role in Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain


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