How to Establish an Exercise Routine in Recovery

Regular exercise is one of the most frequently recommended lifestyle changes to make in recovery. It improves your mood, increases your willpower, and gives you more energy. It encourages you to eat better and sleep better. Exercise is sometimes called a “keystone habit,” which means that if you do this one thing consistently, other parts of your life will improve without any particular effort. If you’re curious, the other keystone habits are meditation and reading.

The problem is that exercise is hard. Sure, it gives you more energy, but what if you don’t have the energy to exercise? Then, there’s the problem of figuring out what to do and when to do it.

Most of our resistance to getting regular exercise comes from a distorted perception of what exercise means. Nike and Gatorade commercials show pro athletes or crossfitters with sweat pouring off their faces and we feel like we’re not really exercising unless we’re pushing ourselves to total exhaustion.

In reality, anything that challenges you physically is exercise. Did you get a bit winded climbing a flight of stairs? Congratulations, you did exercise. Climb the stairs again tomorrow and the next day. When it gets easy, climb two flights. Or take a walk around the neighborhood. The best exercise is the exercise you’ll actually do.

Studies have shown that people are far more likely to exercise consistently and make steady improvement if they approach it with the attitude that no amount is too small. On the other hand, the New Year’s approach–buying a gym membership, hiring a trainer, buying a bunch of new exercise clothes, and generally resolving to become one of those fit people on Instagram–almost always fails. Start with something small, easy, and convenient and add a little bit at a time.

The other important thing is to pick a time when you can exercise consistently. Tie it to some regular part of your schedule so it becomes automatic. Some people exercise first thing in the morning. Others feel like they have enough problems without having to get up earlier. That’s fine. Just tie it to something else, maybe right after work, or right after meetings. Another way to make it easier is to just put on the clothes you plan to exercise in, even if you don’t feel up to exercising that day. So, say you create a habit of coming home from work and putting on your tennis shoes to take a walk. It’s one less thing you have to think about. Quite often, just getting ready to exercise will make you decide just to go ahead and do it.

Creating an exercise habit is really that easy: pick the simplest possible activity and do it at a regular time, ideally after some daily event. Before you know it, you will feel better and you will be making healthier choices in general.


If you are struggling with addiction to alcohol or other drugs, Daylight Recovery can help you detox and decide on a comprehensive treatment strategy. Call us today at 1-866-333-3651 to learn more.