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Physical Education for You in Sobriety


Physical Education helps SobrietyQuitting drugs or alcohol is one of the most challenging prospects a person can face.  For those who are embarking on a new life of sobriety, it may seem a marathon-like event.  Running from drugs takes us on a journey that is, in fact, far longer than a 26.2 mile race.  This event lasts for the rest of our lives.

Many of those who experience the withdrawals associated with ending drug use encounter depression.  There is no cure for depression, although in recent decades its treatment in the medical arena has become big business.  Tens of millions of patients have been diagnosed with depression and subsequently prescribed drugs as treatment.  The effectiveness of these drugs has been moderately good.

As someone who has a background in physical fitness and kinesiology, I am aware of recent studies showing that physical exercise has proven as effective as antidepressants for the treatment of depression.  According to a study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine, a leading source in the field of sports medicine, a long-term study of people who took antidepressants daily and those who exercised regularly showed that similar improvements were made by both groups in reducing the severity of symptoms.

This is absolutely amazing!  Exercise physiology indicates that after 30-45 minutes of rigorous exercise, something happens in the brain.  Strength-training and cardiovascular exercise can stimulate the production of naturally occurring endorphins in the brain.  These are the same chemicals that the brain produces when someone gets high.  It is called a “runner’s high.”

For those in recovery, regular workouts should be adopted as part of a sober lifestyle, and many treatment centers integrate exercise and yoga with the rest of their recovery treatment.

Here is a workout that you can try.  In order to maximize results, it is recommended that you perform this workout 3-5 times a week.


A proper warm-up is essential to prevent injuries.  Walking or other low-intensity movement for 10 min. should be done before the workout.  This may include flexibility training, which may include static (still) and dynamic (moving) stretches.  Always use caution when stretching cold, and concentrate on taking deep breaths.  Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds.  Here are a few stretches that I recommend:

Shoulder Stretch
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Raise either arm up to shoulder height and move it across the front of your body.
3. Pull your other arm as close to your chest as possible.  You should feel the stretch across the back of your shoulder.  Alternate & repeat if desired

Lower Back
1. Begin on your knees.
2. Place your hands in front of you on an exercise ball or the seat of a chair.
3. While keeping your back flat, reach forward with your arms, and lower your buttocks towards the feet.  You should feel a stretch along the sides of your back.
4. Hold and breathe.
5. Next, place your hands shoulder- width apart on the ground.
6. Gently arch your back toward the ceiling, and tuck your buttocks in.  Hold.  After the last arch, lower your buttocks to your heels with your arms stretched out in front, and relax muscles.

Quadriceps Stretch
1. Stand with feet together and hips straight.
2. Bend your knee back, and take the front of your foot in your hand.
3. Keep your knees even bend your right knee back.  You will feel a stretch in the front of your leg from above your hip to your knee.  Do not allow your posture to curve forward, but keep standing straight up.  Hold.  Alternate and repeat if desired.

Triceps Stretch
1. With your feet shoulder-width apart, raise your arm straight up and over your head.
2. Bend your elbow so that your hand is reaching for your opposite shoulder.
3. Use your opposite hand to press back on your elbow.  Alternate and repeat if desired.


At least 20 minutes of jogging on the beach, riding a bicycle at medium-high speed, or swimming are the types of workouts that will benefit us both immediately and in the long run.  Other high-intensity sports such as basketball, tennis, or racquetball also suffice.  If you can sustain these exercises for 45-60 minutes you will receive the maximum benefit and feel better.

Try to work out somewhere scenic and low-traffic, potentiating less stress and optimizing your benefit.  Gyms aren’t always the best place to exercise, as they can be stressful, overly competitive, or even meat markets.  However, they do usually provide a place to work up a good sweat.

Wear headphones if possible, and listen to music that will help you to reach “the zone.”


Spending another 10 minutes after a workout cooling down has been shown to maximize results and decrease injury.  Walk slowly or continue in your modality at about half-speed.  Savor it, you’re done!


By Kevin G.


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