A preliminary, randomized trial of aerobic exercise for alcohol dependence

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


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.

Keywords: Adherence; Aerobic exercise; Alcohol; Alcohol dependence; Exercise; Intervention; Physical activity; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Exercise* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance
  • Physical Fitness
  • Self Efficacy