The Effectiveness of Exercise as an Adjunct Intervention to Improve Quality of Life and Mood in Substance Use Disorder: A Systematic Review
Introduction: Quality of life and affective outcomes offer a perspective of the burden of disease experienced by people with substance use disorder. This can be considered an alternative measure of substance use disorder severity. This review aims to evaluate the impact of exercise as a novel intervention on quality of life and affect in substance use disorder. Method: Medline, CINAHL, Amed, Web of Science core collections, Embase, PsychINFO and SportDISCUS databases were searched from inception to August 2021 for studies that assessed the impact of exercise on mood, depression, anxiety and quality of life outcomes in substance use disorder. Exercise interventions of any duration were included. Results: Forty-two studies met the inclusion criteria. Quality of life scores improved with larger effects seen in studies with two or more sessions per week. Depression and anxiety scores decreased, with 19 of the 25 data sets reporting a reduction in depression (effect size 0.2–1.86) and 13 of the 17 data sets reporting a reduction in anxiety (effect sizes 0.2–1.42). Mood improved in six of the seven data sets reviewed with effect sizes ranging from 0.34 to 1.13. Discussion: Included studies had numerous methodological flaws therefore results need to be interpreted with caution. Further research needs to be completed with more rigorous methodologies to support these results. Conclusions: Results indicate promising responses to exercise as a novel intervention for quality of life and mood in substance use disorder, however further research of high methodological quality is needed to confirm.