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5 Reasons to Add Running to Your Wellness Plan (Especially During Recovery)

Recently I discovered that I am a runner. I can tell you that I do not like to run, and in fact I actually disliked it until just a few weeks ago. You see, I realized that my entire life I have been running from pain. The pain of a breakup, the pain of workplace expectations, the pain of a workout … all of it has always just been too much for me.

But, once I tried it, I realized that I actually enjoy running! It took me a little while to get used to the sweat, the aching legs, and the nagging thoughts in my head that never seemed to stop screaming, “I HATE this!” but I’ll tell you – I did it. And I’ve never been happier than I am today, even after struggling with a powerful addiction to alcohol, and some self-administered drugs.

If you are considering adding exercise to your wellness plan, running may be right up your alley – even if you don’t know it yet!

Here are Just 5 Reasons to Try Running (especially if you are in recovery):

  1. Better Mood. When you are attending 12-step meetings as part of your recovery, you may not always feel like going to them. And maybe, you don’t even like some of the people in the meetings, but you know you have to go. Never fear … you still have a run to look forward to afterwards! Studies have shown that running as exercise is an effective way to reduce feelings of depression, and slash anxiety.1
  1. Feelings of Euphoria. When you are going through the recovery process from an addiction, it can be really difficult to find things that give you the same pleasure as your drug of choice. The feeling of euphoria that you may have gotten when you were using may no longer be possible to achieve. However, the desire for euphoric feelings may trigger a relapse if you aren’t careful. So, go ahead and take a run instead! Studies have shown that this type of exercise may increase feelings of euphoria in people that used to use drugs.2 For this reason, a run may be just what you need to get that same type of positive affect of many commonly abused substances.
  2. Mental Strength. Feelings of depression and anxiety can make people in recovery more susceptible to relapse as changes in the brain after addiction may cause someone to be more vulnerable to these feelings.3 However, by doing regular exercise a person in recovery may be able to alter the way their brain works to boost their chances at maintaining long-term sobriety. One study showed that running is a type of exercise well-known to positively change the brain, which may make the recovery process easier for those suffering with addiction.4
  3. Reduced Risk of Relapse. When you first step out of rehab, and enter the “real” world again you may struggle to find new things you like to do. And while many people do NOT like running, daily exercise can help to reduce the feeling to self-medicate. In one study, exercise was shown to help reduce drug use by limiting risk factors of relapse.5
  4. Less Stress. For people in recovery, the process can cause especially high levels of stress – as if life doesn’t give you enough! So, why not go out for a run? Research suggests that running as exercise can help reduce stress levels. In one study, people who chose running as a stress-reliever showed that they actually enjoyed their runner’s high, and noticed many mental, and emotional benefits that helped to reduce their stress levels afterwards.6

Could Running Help Me During Recovery?

Studies have shown that people in recovery suffer through a period of time after rehabilitation that can be very dangerous for their health. Up to 70% of people in recovery relapse within just one year after completing their initial treatment phase.7

For this reason, if you are in recovery, or know someone who is struggling to beat an addiction for good, consider that the first year after rehab can be the hardest. So, why not try a new hobby?! Running is a great exercise to get your blood pumping, and keep you in a good mood.

You don’t have to run fast, or wear neon clothing to be a runner. All you have to do is buy some running shoes you like, lace them up and keep putting one foot in front of the other to gain these 5 health benefits of running during recovery.

A Final Note on Running for Wellness

Always remember to take the process of your recovery one day at a time. For me, running as exercise for my wellness was just what I needed to keep my good mood, and clear my head of all the stressors in my life. I’ll be honest … I still don’t like the sweat, or the pain in my leg muscles during a run, but when it’s all over I always feel 100% better than I would have if I’d stayed on the couch.

If you feel like you may want to try running, I say go for it! It could be Mother Nature’s best remedy for you.   



  1. Simon N. Young. How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007 Nov; 32(6): 394–399.
  2. Janal M. N., Colt E. W. Glusman M. (1984). Pain sensitivity, mood and plasma endocrine levels in man following long-distance running: effects of naloxone. Pain 19, 13–2510.1016/0304-3959(84)90061-7.
  3. Thomas J. Gould, Ph.D. Addiction and Cognition. Addict Sci Clin Pract. 2010 Dec; 5(2): 4–14.
  4. Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, Charles Hillman. The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities. Compr Physiol. 2013 Jan; 3(1): 403–428.
  5. Mark A. Smith, Wendy J. Lynch. Exercise as a Potential Treatment for Drug Abuse: Evidence from Preclinical Studies. Front Psychiatry. 2011; 2: 82.
  6. William Pettus. Exercise Reduces Stress—Especially for Social Butterflies. October 29, 2013.
  7. Mark A. Smith, Wendy J. Lynch. Exercise as a Potential Treatment for Drug Abuse: Evidence from Preclinical Studies. Front Psychiatry. 2011; 2: 82.

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