Fitness in recovery: impact of exercise in people with substance use disorder in residential treatment


  • Rhiannon J. Dowla Department of Medicine and Health, Susan Wakil Health Building, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia St. John of God Healthcare, Burwood Hospital, Australia
  • Carolyn Stubley We Help Ourselves, Lilyfield, Australia
  • Bridin Murnion Western Sydney Local Health District, Australia
  • Elizabeth Cayanan Department of Medicine and Health, Susan Wakil Health Building, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Glebe, Australia
  • Yorgi Mavros Department of Medicine and Health, Susan Wakil Health Building, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  • Scarlett Hardy Department of Medicine and Health, Susan Wakil Health Building, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  • Kieron Rooney Department of Medicine and Health, Susan Wakil Health Building, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia



Substance use disorder, Exercise, Physical activity, Cardiovascular health, Opioid


Background: Opioid use disorder has the lowest quality of life (QOL) and highest disease burden of all substance use disorders (SUD). While opioid treatment does lead to initial improvements in QOL it remains below that of the general population. The integration of exercise programs as an adjunct therapy for SUD is gaining popularity. Previous reviews have indicated that exercise offers significant benefits for QOL, however the evidence in an opioid treatment population is lacking. This study will investigate the impact of a 12-week exercise intervention on QOL and mood in a residential opioid treatment rehabilitation program.

Methods: This is a 12-week single arm intervention with a natural history control. Participants will complete a baseline screening assessing QOL, mood and exercise habits and those who meet criteria for exercise participation will complete an exercise assessment. The exercise program will be delivered twice per week as part of the group therapy program. Exercise sessions will run for approximately 40 minutes and be at an intensity selected by each of the participants.

Conclusions: A recent review indicated that two sessions of exercise for a minimum of 12 weeks leads to an improvement in QOL in general SUD, however, to date minimal studies have been completed in people receiving opioid agonist treatment. Hence, this will be the first study to our knowledge, assessing the role of exercise as an adjunct treatment for QOL in this population.

Trial Registration: This trial has been registered with the Australian New Zealand clinical trials registry ACTRN12622000213741.


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