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J Subst Abuse Treat. 2014 Jul;47(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2014.02.004. Epub 2014 Mar 1.

A preliminary, randomized trial of aerobic exercise for alcohol dependence.

Author information

  • 1Alpert Medical School of Brown University/Butler Hospital, Providence, RI 02906. Electronic address:
  • 2Alpert Medical School of Brown University/Butler Hospital, Providence, RI 02906.
  • 3University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14260.
  • 4University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093.
  • 5University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
  • 6Alpert Medical School of Brown University/Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, RI 02903.
  • 7Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, Brown University, Providence, RI 02903.
  • 8University of Tennesee-Knoxville, Knoxville, TN 37996.


Interventions targeting physical activity may be valuable as an adjunct to alcohol treatment, but have been relatively untested. In the current study, alcohol dependent, physically sedentary patients were randomized to: a 12-week moderate-intensity, group aerobic exercise intervention (AE; n=25) or a brief advice to exercise intervention (BA-E; n=23). Results showed that individuals in AE reported significantly fewer drinking and heavy drinking days, relative to BA-E during treatment. Furthermore adherence to AE strengthened the beneficial effect of intervention on alcohol use outcomes. While high levels of moderate-intensity exercise appeared to facilitate alcohol recovery regardless of intervention arm, attending the group-based AE intervention seemed to further enhance the positive effects of exercise on alcohol use. Study findings indicate that a moderate intensity, group aerobic exercise intervention is an efficacious adjunct to alcohol treatment. Improving adherence to the intervention may enhance its beneficial effects on alcohol use.


Adherence; Aerobic exercise; Alcohol; Alcohol dependence; Exercise; Intervention; Physical activity; Treatment

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