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J Subst Abuse Treat. 2017 Jan;72:40-47. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2016.09.002. Epub 2016 Sep 9.

Exercise as an Adjunctive Treatment for Substance Use Disorders: Rationale and Intervention Description.

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Saint Louis University. Electronic address:
Saint Louis University.
Sam Houston State University.


Substance use disorders (SUDs) are maladaptive patterns of substance use that are associated with psychiatric comorbidity, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and high rates of relapse. Exercise is associated with a wide range of acute and long-term benefits for both mental and physical health and is presently being investigated as a promising adjunctive treatment for SUD. Despite positive effects of regular physical activity on treatment outcomes and risk factors for relapse, low adherence and high attrition rates limit the benefits derived from exercise interventions. Lack of motivation is one of many perceived barriers to initiating exercise that contributes to poor adherence to interventions. In the present article, we describe the protocol for a novel, integrated exercise intervention that combines motivational interviewing (MI), a client-centered approach designed to enhance intrinsic motivation and resolve ambivalence toward change, and contingency management (CM), a behavioral treatment that provides monetary incentives for the completion of target behaviors. The protocol seeks to address the challenges surrounding initiation and maintenance of an exercise program at a level consistent with public health guidelines, particularly for sedentary patients. We conclude with considerations for the implementation of the intervention in SUD specific clinics.


Addiction; Incentives; Physical activity; Sedentary

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