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Exercise helps young people with substance use disorders

People exercising

By Juliano Oliveira

Young people with substance use disorders may find in exercise programs the key to overcoming their addictions, according to a new study led by researchers at The University of Western Australia.

Substance use disorders can be effectively tackled by regular, structured and personalised exercise, affirmed the university’s scientists.

In Australia, 13% of youngsters between 15 to 24 years old, have experienced a substance use disorder within 12 months, most common drug and alcohol.

“We know from preliminary research that exercise programs are a readily accessible, low-cost and effective strategy for addressing substance use disorders among young people, which represent a significant public health concern,” Dr Bonnie Furzer said.

“After recruiting 64 young people in a residential drug rehabilitation program, we offered them exercise classes twice a week and closely examined the benefits to their rehabilitation,” Dr Furzer said.

“We discovered that the effectiveness of the exercise program was heavily influenced by how enjoyable the actual exercise was.”

Dr Furzer collaborated with researchers from James Cook University, Central Queensland University, Kids Rehab WA, Thriving Inc and the Drug and Alcohol Youth Service – Mental Health Commission to conduct the study.

Professor of health psychology James Dimmock, from James Cook University, affirms that exercise programs should provide choices, have strong rationales for participation, and be flexible.

“We believe that people get more enjoyment from an activity when their psychological needs are satisfied,” Professor Dimmock said.

“These needs are universal and include autonomy, competence and a sense of close connection to others.

“The instructors should be positive and offer clear and relevant goals while building rapport with the clients.”

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