Exercise and Addiction – 12 Good Reasons to Take a Hike

exercise and addiction women walking

Hiking can be solitary or group activity!

“Walking is a superfood. It’s the defining movement of a human.” Kathy Bowman/ Move Your DNA


When I look back on the road to my recovery from addiction, the 12-step aphorism, “putting one foot in front of the other,” has literal significance to me. I am always up for a long walk or a hike to blow out the cobwebs and get the blood flowing. I would choose a ramble on diverse terrain over anything else I can think of.


Exercise and Addiction Recovery

Everyone knows walking is good for you. But do you know how good? And walking provides additional benefits to those recovering from substance use disorders (SUD). Especially those attempting to rebuild a healthy lifestyle and reverse the ill effects of long-term drug or alcohol use. The best news about taking a hike? It’s free, easy to do, and a foolproof way to get your sober self back into shape.


exercise and addiction guys in woods

The things you will see …


12 Good Reasons to Take a Hike:

1. Hikers are Happy

Hiking decreases depression and feelings of hopelessness. It also allows us to connect with nature and ourselves, bringing a sense of well-being.

2. Walking Improves Sleep Quality

Sleep patterns are disrupted in early addiction recovery. A bracing walk in the fresh air makes you tired and enhances REM sleep.

3. Your Heart, Lungs, and Blood Vessels Thank You

Hiking improves cardio-respiratory fitness. And the farther you get from the madding crowd, the cleaner the oxygen.

4. Walking Improves Muscular Fitness

Without putting too much stress on your joints, the muscles in your legs, glutes, and core will develop and strengthen on the winding, tilting path.


exercise and addiction recovery path in the woods

Muskegon, Michigan, hiking trail


5. When you Hike, You Experience Movement for the Joy of It

Getting out of doors for the joy of movement and not for the calorie burn or competition frees and opens the eyes to the splendor all around!

6. Hiking Improves Creativity

Spend time out of doors, and your attention span and brain power increase – creative juices flow more freely when you are active than sitting.

7. Walking Increases Bone Density

You get plenty of load-bearing exercise, especially if you walk with a pack.

8. Hiking Improves Your Connections

To the people you are with and your inner-self, without the distractions of daily stressors. The serene silence when you are alone recharges you to the core.

9. The Challenge of Hiking Increases Self-Esteem

Winding your way on a difficult track and taking responsibility for your actions improves emotional and physical stability.

10. Hiking Provides Beautiful Views

The sounds, smells, and sights in the majesty of nature have a calming effect on the mind.

11. Hiking Improves Balance

The uneven terrain will improve your balancing skills, automatically adjusting to ground-level changes.

12. Walking Keeps You Young and Lowers the Risk of Early Death

Research presented at the European Society of Cardiology showed that “those who engaged in daily moderate exercise such as a brisk walk or jog…have experienced anti-aging benefits that could add three to seven years to their lives.” Just seven active hours a week increases life expectancy!


Take a hike!

Whether you decide on a Sunday stroll, an afternoon hike, or a weekend in the wild, get out and chart your course, take control of your workout, and improve your overall well-being. Especially if you are in recovery from addiction, take a hike!


Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit www.sanfordbehavioralhealth.com.