Exercise clubs to improve quality of life among substance use disorder patients


Publication date



Oslo and Akershus University College

Document type


Master i sosialt arbeid


Objective. This pilot study sought to quantitatively evaluate quality of life changes among patients of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment institutions following participation in coach-led exercise groups. The pilot study also intended to use attendance data and qualitative feedback to assess the feasibility of such an exercise intervention and discuss the potentiality for scaling it up as a larger, adjunct therapeutic intervention. Methods. 35 residents of four post-acute SUD treatment institutions enrolled in ten-week, lowintensity exercise groups that met for three days each week in half-hour sessions. Before and after the intervention, participants answered the World Health Organization’s Quality of Life Brief (WHOQOL-BREF), the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL-25), and self-report inventories modified from the Norwegian Follow-up Study for Opioid Dependents that measured current substance use and somatic burden. Those who enrolled and exercised were analyzed as exercisers, and those who enrolled but did not exercise were analyzed as non-exercisers. Quantitative data on attendance was integrated with qualitative feedback from participants and coaches to evaluate program acceptability and feasibility. Results. Physical health quality of life and psychological health quality of life increased with statistical and clinical significance among exercisers, but not among non-exercisers. Exercise had no impact on participants’ social relationships quality of life or environment quality of life. Participants with clinical levels of emotional distress were more likely to exercise than those with sub-clinical levels, as were participants with a greater burden of somatic health problems. Coaches held important roles as motivators in order to engage participants and make the groups accessible. Conclusion. This pilot study has provided novel, preliminary evidence of quantitative quality of life gains as a result of participation in a coach-led group exercise intervention. Several design elements have been identified for future interventions to replicate and improve upon, such as those that helped engage the most physically and mentally vulnerable participants.


Permanent URL (for citation purposes)

  • http://hdl.handle.net/10642/2252