The investigation of exercise as an adjunct to the treatment and rehabilitation of the problem drinker
The effects of undertaking a three week supervised exercise programme followed by a twelve week home based exercise programme, were investigated with adults in an abstinence treatment programme within four alcohol problem clinics. A randomised experimental design was used with physiological and psychological variables being measured at baseline, on entry to the programme, at 1 month, following the intervention programme and then at time points from baseline at 2 months and 5 months. Recruitment to the study of 165 subjects exceeded expectation. Of these 117 completed the first stage with 61 in the exercise group (n-46 male: n=15 female) and 56 in the placebo control group (n=43 male n=13 female). The findings of this study indicate that the inclusion of a three week programme of exercise in an abstinence rehabilitation programme improves fitness, strength, physical activity and physical self-perceptions and that these improvements are maintained for a further month by undertaking a home based exercise programme. At five months however, only improved fitness is maintained. There is no evidence that exercise can be linked to maintaining abstinence levels. Under reporting of drinking behaviour was high. At two months 27% and at 5 months 35% of those identified by the CDT blood test as drinking, at levels associated with relapse, self reported abstinence or low levels of alcohol intake. These findings have clinical relevance to physiotherapists and other health care professionals, as they indicate that problem drinkers have low aerobic fitness and low self perceptions. Inclusion of a three week programme designed to improve fitness and strength, followed by a home based programme, may be beneficial in improving these parameters with the possibility of increasing physical activity.