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Can exercise help to overcome addiction?

Updated: Nov 24

Can exercise help to overcome addiction? We are a society of addicts. Whether that be to sugar, cigarettes, our phones or to buying plants.

The world is catering more to the short attention span; we get hits of dopamine everytime we scroll through TikTok, a cheeky shot of serotonin when a notification pops up and that much needed relaxation with a glass of wine in the evening.

We function as low level addicts, but we can, for the most part, get on with our days relatively unscathed. What happens when that addiction morphs into something altogether more destructive? When it becomes the sun around which we orbit? When friends, family, work and life are no longer a priority? When society turns its back with a scoffing look and a cold shoulder?

We are all humans with an immense ability to achieve anything, however, no matter your background, socio-economic status, race, gender or sexuality you can end up at your lowest ebb. Addiction doesn’t discriminate.

Now more than ever, we have access to a wide range of narcotics and alcohol and despite the rise in international attention to the opioid crisis here and over the pond, we still see alarming rates of addiction rising in young adults. Heart disease is still the biggest killer in the UK and yet alcohol and cigarettes are legally available in any newsagents and supermarkets.

Stress, anxiety and depression has reached a peak, especially in the last few years so how do we go about creating healthy habits and coping mechanisms that allow us to move forward in our lives, living a fulfilling life, but able to cope with the mounting, external pressures the world offers on a daily basis?

There are many schemes in the UK that are helping vulnerable adults to overcome addiction with NLP practices, group coaching and rehoming schemes and we know these treatments are effective along with individual willingness. Alongside these successful treatments, exercise shows great improvements in lifestyle change.

In a study outlined in the Scand J Public Health (Scandinavian Journal of Public Health) where an exercise programme was offered to 38 participants (23 male and 15 female) who misused a number of substances and involved group exercise 3 times a week for 2-6 months. 20 participants completed the study and when reassessed a year later, five reported abstinence and 10 reported they had decreased their substance use. Exercise in general offers many benefits, physically and psychologically. Despite the obvious benefits in muscle strengthening, increases in bone density and improved cardiovascular health, exercise helps the happy chemicals in the brain, helps to regulate the nervous system and creates a structure to our days.

In our experience as Coaches, group exercise also helps to foster positive social connections and as a recovering addict, positive connections are imperative in creating an environment that fosters trust in society.


Now, no recovery method is infallible, an addict requires an attitude to maintain behaviour change and a positive peer group to influence long term change. We at Feel New are trying to bring all of these elements into our sessions and our pillars of change are how we structure all of our sessions around.

  1. Ensuring Long Term Health - Ongoing healthy choices:

  2. A Regular exercise regime, planned and progressed by our coaches and adapted to suit all needs and conducted at the same time and day to create structure

  3. Eating well. We teach the positive impact of a healthy, balanced diet involving all food groups and vital vitamins and minerals which can help recovery of mind and body.

  4. Teaching the positive impact of meditation, mindfulness and breathing techniques


  1. Having a stable home life

a. We can’t determine a participants home life and nor can we ensure they have a healthy and stable home to live in, but what we can help with is teaching healthy habits and how to feel stronger in body and mind to deal with challenges they may face in their day to day lives

3. Creating a life of purpose a. When you feel structured in your life, you begin to see positive changes to your outlook in life, therefore you begin to get a taste for living purposefully. Those in recovery have previously placed little to no value in living a life of purpose. We believe everyone deserves the right to feel they have a place in this world and that's why we create inclusive and safe fitness classes, where participants are encouraged to push past their limits and progress every week and to see the benefit of doing so.

4. Developing relationships in community a. An addict's previous community may not have been a place which felt conducive to a healthy future nor may it have fostered trustworthy relationships. Group exercise is a great setting for a healthy, supportive environment. Participants share a common goal, they understand each other's struggles and actively support and encourage each other to achieve what they thought they couldn’t. Our coaches ensure all feel like they belong in their classes and that they know that the hour they spend in that room is a safe place to be; they can trust each other and trust an authority figure. Recovery is an active, lifelong process and we believe that exercise is an important part of that recovery; not only physically but emotionally and psychologically.


If you want to talk with Paige pop in to Feel Fit HQ or drop her a message on hello@myfeelfit.com


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