Starting an Exercise Routine After Quitting Drinking: Essential Tips

Starting an exercise routine is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health after you get sober. Besides keeping you busy and focused, regular exercise can also reduce your stress levels, improve your mood, and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like hypertension and stroke.

You do, however, have some special considerations if you have recently become sober and hope to start a healthy exercise routine. Let’s explore that further!

Why Is Exercise So Important?

Only 50 percent of adults get enough exercise — and few people who live a very active lifestyle are heavy drinkers.

Exercising regularly, for at least 150 minutes a week and ideally closer to 300, helps people get fit and build strength. It reduces the risk of severe or chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, stroke, and certain types of cancer — and exercise has even been shown to boost your mood and ability to think clearly.

While that’s plenty of reason to start an exercise routine as soon as possible, people in recovery from alcoholism can also benefit from physical activity in several other ways:

  • An exercise routine can give you something positive to focus on, allowing you to create healthy personal goals.
  • Healthy habits tend to reinforce each other. Research has shown that fitness-minded people also tend to embrace healthy and balanced diets and health-promoting sleep patterns.
  • Team-based fitness activities allow people in recovery to build a new social network filled with health-minded people who can support them in their sobriety.

So, if you’re currently sedentary (inactive) and out of shape, start somewhere. The CDC recommends moderate-intensity cardio exercises and some form of strength training.

Start Slowly and with Realistic Goals

Start slowly With Exercise To Help You Stop Drinking
Photo by Samar Patil from Pexels:

Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you’ve been physically inactive for some time (and maybe even years), you can’t run a marathon tomorrow. Low-impact activities that won’t risk physical injury are always a good start. Walking, swimming, and gentle yoga exercises are great options for beginners or people newly rediscovering exercise.

While gentle exercises like walking are safe for almost everyone, it’s generally a good idea to talk to your doctor about starting a more intense exercise routine. Your doctor can recommend suitable physical activities based on your health profile and any medical conditions you may have.

Once you get your doctor’s green light, setting incremental goals is always motivating. Track your progress and give yourself something to be proud of — and then aim for just a bit more. If you let it, exercise can be a never-ending source of motivation and goal-setting!

Listen to Your Body

Starting an exercise routine offers a perfect opportunity to get more in tune with your body. You weren’t able to listen to your body’s messages while you were drinking — booze had you in too strong a grip. You can start to repair that “relationship” now.

It’s normal to feel sweaty, a little achy, and a little out of breath if you go from sedentary to active. It’s not normal to feel like you’re half dead — so stop, ask yourself if you’re fit to keep going, and stop if you’re in pain or unable to breathe properly after a little break.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Remember that any progress is progress, and you’re not competing against experienced pros. You’re competing against yourself. The ultimate prize? A healthy body and mind.

Steer Clear of High-Risk Situations

Many sober alcoholics actively embrace a sober lifestyle, especially during the early stages of recovery. Being around people who drink can act as an instant trigger, especially if people invite you to have a drink and you’re not sure how to turn them down.

Many fitness-related communities are fully committed to a healthy lifestyle, but that’s not always true — and you may not always know what you’re getting yourself into. Team sports often come with inbuilt social networks, some of which are quite fond of booze. Even if you’re joining an exercise class you consider low-risk, like a pilates class or a martial arts club, other participants may  invite you to a bar afterward.

That would be a missed opportunity because you could easily expand your social network by joining a sports team or club. If you’re still in early recovery, you may want to err on the side of caution and choose a club where people have not established a drinking culture.

Go on a Health Kick

Once you start exercising, you may feel the sudden urge to adopt other healthy behaviors to enable faster progress. Let that tide carry you where it may!

A focus on healthy nutrition can support you in your exercise and recovery goals — and we all love catching two birds with one stone! You may also find yourself considering healthy sleep patterns and better time management, both of which can help you meet the fitness goals you set for yourself.

Enjoy and build on this knock-on effect. Alcohol once played a central role in your life, and it can leave a gaping hole. A health-minded lifestyle can help to fill that hole — and help you discover an entirely new way to live your life.

Find Stress Relief in Exercise

Drink was once the answer to everything, including the dreaded monster of stress. When you get sober, you’ll need a new way to cope. While there are many healthy ways to deal with stress, including meditation, hobbies, and talk therapy, exercise can be very important.

Do you want to make the most of your new exercise routine? Analyze when your stress levels are normally highest, and plan your exercise program around those times if you can. Good, old-fashioned exhaustion (of the best kind!) can often melt that stress away and leave you feeling satisfied. Use this to your advantage!

In Conclusion

Starting an exercise routine isn’t just a powerful way to improve your physical health. It can also keep you motivated and busy — and lift your mood and energy levels along the way. If you’re doing it right, you’ll want to build on that success by improving other aspects of your health.

Alcohol once dragged you down, but exercise can play a crucial role in lifting you up now. Embrace it!

Category: Addiction, Articles
Martijn van Eijk
Martijn is a passionate creator and the driving force behind He created this website to assist individuals and their families in conquering alcohol addiction and finding a joyful, fulfilling life after alcohol. With a deep understanding of the challenges they face, he empowers readers with valuable insights and practical guidance on their journey towards recovery. Author of the Stop Shaking Book.