Exercise as an intervention for sedentary hazardous drinking college students: A pilot study

Ment Health Phys Act. 2014 Mar 1;7(1):55-62. doi: 10.1016/j.mhpa.2014.02.002.


Young adults 18-24 years have the highest rates of problems associated with alcohol use among all age groups, and substance use is inversely related to engagement in substance-free activities. This pilot study investigated the promotion of one specific substance-free activity, exercise, on alcohol use in college students. Thirty-one sedentary college students who engaged in hazardous drinking (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test scores ≥ 8) were randomized to one of two conditions: (a) one 50-minute session of motivational enhancement therapy (MET) focused on increasing exercise, or (b) one 50-minute session of MET focused on increasing exercise plus 8 weeks of contingency management (CM) for adhering to specific exercise activities. All participants completed evaluations at baseline and post-treatment (2-months later) assessing exercise participation and alcohol use. Results of the pilot study suggest the interventions were well received by participants, the MET+CM condition showed an increased self-reported frequency of exercise in comparison to the MET alone condition, but other indices of exercise, physical fitness, and alcohol use did not differ between the interventions over time. These results suggest that a larger scale trial could better assess efficacy of this well received combined intervention. Investigation in other clinically relevant populations is also warranted.

Keywords: Motivational interviewing; binge drinking; contingency management; emerging adults; physical activity.