Benefits of Exercise in Sobriety: Why is it Important?

For most of us we not only neglected our personal relationships, our careers, and obligations; we also failed to properly take care of our bodies. After a few weeks sober, skin health, sleep, and your digestive system will have improved. Although many of us may see our physical health improve greatly in as little as a few weeks, it can take up to 6 months for us to feel completely back to normal. The benefits of exercise in sobriety are many.

We will explore the effect of alcohol has on the body, particularly your appearance, the benefits of exercise, how to begin our new habit, and reasons to stick with it.

Alcohol Effects on the Body

Healthy Vs. Alcoholic Heart

Everyone is aware that the immediate effects of alcohol are typically inebriation, slowing of movements and speech, poor judgment, etc. This is typically followed by ill feelings the day after as well. When we continue to drink excessively over a period of months or years, the body experiences a general shock to its system again and again that decreases overall health.

Some of these effects include high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, nerve damage, malnutrition, cancer, accidental falls, etc. These problems developing inside our bodies often do not concern us because we become used to them, or simply don’t care, our outward appearance that is presented to the world is more noticeable than we would like to believe.  Let’s explore some of the obvious to everyone effects of alcoholic drinking.

Your skin, especially your face, becomes puffy because your heart will pump more fluid into tissues to balance out arteries that have been widened by alcohol. You may also suffer from cracked skin because of dehydration. Your eyes will also develop bags or be bloodshot due to inadequate rest. From experience, I can assure you passing out is not the same thing as a good night’s sleep.

Although it is unlikely many in their active addiction took working out seriously, those that drink heavily have a hard time building muscle. The reason for this is alcohol messes with our hormones making it more difficult for the body to repair and build proteins.

Finally, you can expect some plumpness from periods of binge or daily drinking. In other words, alcohol makes us fat. We all know people with beer bellies. This is caused by consuming empty calories that provide no nutritional value, and in an alcoholics case, a slew of other health problems.

Exercise Benefits for Alcoholics

As an alcoholic that was developing a nearly daily habit of blackout drinking, I can tell you that exercise has been one of the keys to regulating my dopamine levels. After developing an alcohol dependence, I simply did not feel like myself without a few drinks. I would sit in a staff meeting at the end of the work day and think of nothing but getting home and having a few drinks. I would be in a better mood at the store buying the stuff before I even had that first drink. It was really that bad. The anticipation of drinking actually noticeably spiked my dopamine levels. Luckily, I don’t have to live like that anymore. Exercise has helped tremendously.

The same effect that alcohol produced by releasing dopamine has been supplanted by the same reward putting in a session at the gym. Instead of destroying my body, I am actually improving upon it. It also helped lessen the effect of cravings for alcohol. It is a far better alternative than pounding a few beers, which for me, turns into a fifth of vodka.

Exercise also activates the same pleasure centers in the brain. The only difference is it provides healthful effects, as opposed to a pounding headache, irritable mood, and a feeling of worthlessness. I try to exercise in the morning because it sets the tone for my whole day giving me a greater feeling of well-being.

Working out is also one of the greatest stress relievers available. In my opinion, it beats our meditation, relaxing on the couch, or listening to music. Get on a stair stepper and see for yourself! It beats down depressive symptoms because you are focused on what you are doing, not the myriads of problems that developed to the addiction lifestyle.

In addition to releasing endorphins, proper exercise helps us sleep better and get stronger. It also helps us pursue achievable goals. I may not write down how much I lifted or how many reps I completed, but I know from memory that I lift more each and every month. As your outward appearance begins to improve, other people will surely notice as well. If you need motivation, think about all the people who will be so glad to see you looking healthy for the first time in years! It may be a cliche, but when you look good you feel good.

Most importantly, implementing exercise into your daily routine has been clinically proven to help keep us sober. In 1982, David Sinyor published a study that showed a full 69% of people who left treatment and exercised stayed sober after 90 days. Conversely, those who did not experienced a 62% relapse rate. Now, let’s answer the question: How do I get started experiencing the benefits of exercise in sobriety?

Ready To Get Ripped? Start Slowly

Depending on you fitness level, it is a good idea to consult a doctor or trainer before beginning any vigorous training program. This is particularly true if you are newly sober from years of abusing your body with drugs and alcohol. Let’s face it though, most of us are broke when we first get sober. Addiction is expensive. For a cost effective solution, get online and check out free community center options or join a low cost gym like planet fitness.

After an extended period neglecting our fitness, it is probable that we need to ease into exercise. This isn’t to say you should walk on a treadmill and call it quits after a quarter mile each day for a month. It is important to challenge ourselves without overdoing it. If you feel up to a particular exercise challenge, go for it! There are many types of exercise that are beneficial to people in recovery.

Yoga has been proven to ease stress, improve balance and flexibility, tone our cores, and help us reduce weight. Cardio exercise helps relieve depression and anxiety, gives us confidence about how we feel and look, improves sleep, and improves our cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Finally, weight training improves our ability to complete our work, improves bone density, and increases the strength of connective tissue, muscles, and tendons. It would be easy to ceaselessly write about the benefits of exercise. Instead, just put in the work and see for yourself.

Keep at It

Exercise daily, or semi-daily should not be too difficult for most of us if we remember how much time we put into sustaining our addiction. For me, it was all consuming, so to say I don’t have the time to spend at least a half our engaging in some type of exercise would be a flat out lie.

Most experts agree that it takes a few weeks to develop a habit; good or bad. This is great news because after a few weeks of training, exercise will be fully ingrained as a part of our lives. Missing a workout will give us a negative feeling that hopefully will get us back into the gym. Please note, however, that missing a day here and there when things come up is not the end of the world. Hopefully, you were helping out another alcoholic or addict that is still suffering!

As the duration and intensity of your exercises increase, you will surely notice a difference in the way you feel and look. Daily tasks will become easier due to increased flexibility and strength. People will compliment you on your physique. You will feel better about your situation. And most importantly, it will help keep you sober.


Alcohol abuse produces many negative effects on our bodies. We are a tired, dehydrated, bloated, blotchy, unhealthy mess. Now that we have made the decision to maintain sobriety, it is time to fill our time with healthy habits; an important one is exercise. Exercise has been proven to provide so many advantageous effects on our lives that thousand of books and articles have been written on the subject. After the initial stages of beginning a new exercise routine, we should attempt greater feats and challenge ourselves to get better. As time goes by we will see noticeable improvements in our physique and our well-being. Regardless of fitness level, it is important to work out if only to improve our chances of long-term sobriety.

Please leave any questions or comments in the comment section.

Please share this post if it has helped or will help others close to you.



  1. This is so true, and even if you don’t join a gym, an hour walk outside, listening to music or just letting your mind wander is a good exercise. Start small and don’t get discouraged. Their are free places for seniors, like silver sneakers. Taking your dog for a walk and seeing the spring in their step being outside with their best friend. An hour a day will make a huge difference in your mind, body and soul.

    • Thank you for the input about silver sneakers. I have not personally heard of this, but it is certainly a viable option for seniors looking for exercise. It really does not matter what you do, like you said. The important things is getting out there and staying active.

  2. Oh my God! alcohol can be this much worse for a person that even it can cost a person life its really shocking , i am gonna share this info to my all friends & family members who are alcohol addicted. Thank you to share this info plus you have given ways through which person can get rid off.

    • It is certainly a destructive illness. We often believe we are only hurting ourselves, but this is certainly not the case. I appreciate you sharing this with friends and family. Exercise can certainly help in sobriety.

  3. The benefits of exercise are numerous and getting into a regular exercise routine has really helped me change my thoughts and lifestyle. I agree that once you get into the habit of daily exercise you actually miss the dopamine rush that comes with it. I’d never really thought of this before but do you think its possible to become addicted to exercise?

    • I think it is certainly possible to become addicted to exercise.  I have seen it personally.  However, if I had to choose between exercise and alcoholism, I think exercise would be the healthy option.

      That being said, too much of anything is harmful.  It is important to balance our lives.

      Thanks for the comment.  Keep at your exercise routine!

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