The Life Challenge
How Running Can Give You the Boost You Need to Succeed in Addiction Recovery

How Running Can Give You the Boost You Need to Succeed in Addiction Recovery

By Becca Owens

Oftentimes, recovery is compared to the life of a runner — it’s more like a marathon than a sprint. Although the metaphor is significant on its own, running can quite literally become one of the most helpful tools for individuals fighting through recovery one day and one stride at a time.

Health Benefits of Running


Most any type of exercise can offer significant benefits for people in recovery. Because recovery is a holistic experience, when one area of health increases — like physical health through exercise — other areas, like mental health and your outlook on life, also benefit.

Running or walking in particular can boost your health in many different ways. It’s an accessible exercise for most all people. And it doesn’t matter your fitness level when you begin, which makes it a great exercise option for people from all backgrounds.

Some health benefits of running include:

  • Relieves stress
  • Boosts mood
  • Decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves heart health
  • Strengthens bones and joints
  • Improves cognition1

When people feel better mentally and physically, they are better equipped to continue in their recovery journey successfully.

Woman running in city

Running in Recovery

So much of recovery is retraining yourself to feel and behave normally without the influence of drugs and alcohol. Addictive substances can train the brain to only feel pleasure when those chemicals are present. However, running is actually a natural high that produces similar effects in the brain. When people who have been addicted experience the good feelings that exercise produces, they may be less tempted to seek out similar feelings from drugs.

Other detriments to your health caused by drugs — like the impairment of decision-making abilities and mental will — are actually strengthened by physical exercises like running. People who exercise in recovery tend to have fewer episodes of relapse and report lower levels of cravings than those who do not. In other words, individuals in recovery are more likely to meet their recovery goals if they are dedicated to exercising regularly.2

Taking Your First Steps

For those who have been dedicated runners in the past, the challenge to begin running again may seem exciting. However, for those who have never run for exercise before, the idea of running long distances, on purpose, may feel overwhelming and even daunting. However, you are not alone. There are all kinds of running programs available to help you begin exactly where you are with your fitness level.

One great program to pair running and recovery is the Heroes in Recovery 6K series. Although most entry-level races are five kilometers, the Heroes in Recovery race is six to signify that, in recovery, individuals must give even more of themselves in order to succeed.

The Heroes in Recovery 6K can be run in person through one of many live events nationwide, or it can be run virtually from anywhere. It’s a great way to join with others to fight the stigma of addiction recovery and make it possible for even more people to begin running their recovery race!

Help for Addiction

If you or someone you love is fighting addiction and ready to begin your recovery journey, please let us help. The caring admissions coordinators at our 24-hour, toll-free helpline are ready to talk you through all of your treatment options and help you begin a life apart from addiction.


1 Loria, Kevin, “8 key ways running can transform your body and brain.”, May 27, 2018.

2 Colino, Stacey, “Running (or Walking Briskly) Away From Addiction.” US News and World Report, June 18, 2018.