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Does an acute bout of moderate exercise reduce alcohol craving in university students?

Craving is considered to be a vital contributor to the onset and maintenance of alcohol misuse. However, there is little known about its potential moderators and there are few interventions that specifically target these cravings. Exercise generates multiple psychological and physiological effects that in theory may reduce craving, and therefore we hypothesised that a short exercise circuit may potentially alter reward circuits. Recent research centred around neuroimaging studies suggests that similar reward circuits in the brain stimulated through exercise are also found to be activated by commonly misused substances such as alcohol. Peripheral levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, as well as the release of endorphins that would otherwise be artificially stimulated using alcohol are hypothesised to increase via alternate substitution induced by exercise. Exercise would thus replace effects of alcohol use to a substantial extent, and therefore was theorised to decrease craving and subsequently reduce hazardous alcohol use. A university student sample who reported hazardous drinking levels participated in either an exercise, colouring (as an active control) or a passive control intervention, and self-reported alcohol craving, mood, anxiety, and positive and negative affect scores were assessed. The present study found that a short exercise circuit significantly reduced alcohol craving, whilst also eliciting beneficial effects on mood and anxiety. This knowledge will help aid the utilisation of exercise as a potential therapeutic tool to reduce alcohol craving, prevent hazardous alcohol use and develop a greater understanding of the mechanisms that underlie addictive behaviour.

History

School

  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

Addictive Behaviors

Volume

123

Publisher

Elsevier

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Rights holder

© Elsevier

Publisher statement

This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Addictive Behaviors and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2021.107071.

Acceptance date

27/07/2021

Publication date

2021-07-29

Copyright date

2021

ISSN

0306-4603

eISSN

1873-6327

Language

en

Depositor

Dr Thom Wilcockson. Deposit date: 8 September 2021

Article number

107071