Exercise and substance abuse

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2019:147:269-280. doi: 10.1016/bs.irn.2019.07.007. Epub 2019 Aug 22.


Exercise intervention has long been used as one adjunctive treatment for drug abuse. Both animal studies and human trials suggest that exercise training effectively prevents addiction formation, suppresses drug-seeking behaviors, and ceases addictions. Moreover, exercise improves both mental and cognitive deficits that commonly occur during drug withdrawal. Those observations are supported by neurobiological studies in which exercise training modulates several neural networks including the dopaminergic reward system, and regulates neurogenesis and spinogenesis that affect cognitive behaviors and mental health. In sum, exercise training is a safe and effective way to relieve substance abuse, although both intervention guideline and biomarkers warrants further investigation.

Keywords: Addiction; Cognitive functions, drug addiction; Dopaminergic system; Exercise intervention; Neural plasticity; Withdrawal symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*