It is known that exercise is beneficial to people with substance use disorder, however little evidence exists regarding their exercise capacity. This pilot study investigates the exercise capacity of patients with substance use disorder and effects of an acute bout of exercise on affect.


Twenty-nine participants admitted to a withdrawal management facility were recruited to complete a health and exercise assessment (18 females, 11 males; 41 ± 11 years old). Mood was measured before and after exercise assessments using the subjective experience to exercise scale. Data was grouped by sex, and descriptive analyses were performed against age-matched normative data. Within group, before and after subjective experience to exercise scale measures were analyzed using 2-way ANOVA with sex as a between subject factor.


Participants ranged from having 2 to 6 modifiable cardiovascular risk factors. Participants performed below average compared to age-matched and sex-matched normative data for the 6-minute walk test (females: 539 ± 54 m, males: 606 ± 89 m); and push-up test (females: 22% good, males: 36% good). Of the 29 participants, 29% failed to achieve the average range for sex-matched norms in the sit-to-stand test. However, all participants achieved above average for curl-ups, and 72% achieved an average or above score in the step-up test. Exercise significantly increased wellbeing (P < 0.001, effect size = 1.12) and decreased psychological distress (P = 0.045, effect size = 1.03) and fatigue (P < 0.001, effect size = 1.32).


Exercise is both feasible and beneficial in a withdrawal management setting. Capacity to perform exercise was generally poor with high individual variance. Design of future interventions will need tailored prescription for patients in this population.

You do not currently have access to this content.