In recent years, empirical research in the area of exercise with alcohol and drug addiction treatment has expanded. Recent research studies have indicated that physical activity contributes to a healthy lifestyle by promoting overall health and wellness as well as physiological health.  Exercise is beneficial to individuals in drug and alcohol addiction treatment for many reasons. Exercise is cost-effective, flexible, and easily accessible. Exercise can also take many forms, such as playing sports, swimming, walking, running, yoga, and following along to fitness videos. In many cases, it has fewer side effects than psychotropic medication.

Further research in the area of exercise as a supplement to drug and alcohol addiction treatment has found that exercise can provide pleasurable feelings, increase self-efficacy, reduce depressive symptoms and negative moods, decrease stress, improve coping, decrease urges, and provide a positive alternative to using drugs or alcohol.

A 2008 study called "Aerobic Exercise for Alcohol Recovery" was performed on individuals who were alcohol dependent. The study found that a 12-week exercise intervention greatly increased the number of days that the individuals remained abstinent. The exercise intervention included mild aerobic workouts that aided in the recovery process while also boosting cardio-respiratory health.

New Hope Recovery Center understands that exercise is beneficial during the addiction treatment process, so our clients get to experience yoga on a weekly basis as part of our treatment program. Yoga is a particularly important form of exercise to engage in during recovery because recent studies have indicated that yoga increases GABA levels in the brain by nearly 25%. GABA is a receptor in the brain that becomes altered during a drug addiction, so it is important that it be restored back to normal levels. GABA also regulates many central nervous system and muscular functions, including neuron excitability and muscle tone. So in addition to increasing GABA receptors, yoga helps restore central nervous system functions. Yoga as a form of exercise also promotes the release of internalized emotions, decreases anxiety and stress, and can reduce the impulsive behaviors that often are associated with addiction. Individuals have found that yoga has helped them connect to the spiritual world, a common theme found in many 12-Step meetings. Yoga is a holistic exercise that contributes to positive mental and physical health, increases social support through participation in classes, and creates a new spiritual reawakening.

Evidence clearly exists that engaging in exercise in addition to substance abuse treatment can promote overall health and enhance the recovery process. Learn more about yoga in recovery from this article. To learn more about New Hope Recovery Center’s addiction treatment programs, contact us at (773) 883-3916 or email us at

Study: Brown, Richard, Ana Abrantes, Mary Ella Dubreuil, Alan Gordon, Jennifer Read, Bess Marcus, John Jakicic, David Strong, Julie Oakley, Susan Ramsey, Christopher Kahler, and Gregory Stuart. "Aerobic Exercise for Alcohol Recovery." Behavior Modification 33.2 (2009): 220-249. Loyola Libraries. Web. 17 Apr. 2013.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center