Exercise in Inpatient Addiction Treatment: A Qualitative Analysis of Male Exercise Preferences during Treatment

Author(s): Jennifer Lape Kaiser*, Taylor Allesch, Dana Ripley and Maura Bennett


Introduction: Research regarding the use of exercise in drug and alcohol treatment, despite its early promise, is underdeveloped. There have been few studies that lay the foundation for the type of exercise that may be preferred in an inpatient drug and alcohol setting. This study attempts to remedy this lack of knowledge by qualitatively assessing the exercise and physical activity preferences for males engaged in inpatient addiction treatment.

Methods: Twelve male, adult participants, engaged in treatment at a Southern facility in the United States, completed brief, semi-structured interviews via Zoom. Interviews included questions regarding the participants’ physical activity history, use of the available exercise opportunities at the treatment center, and preferences for exercise and physical activity in the inpatient treatment setting. Participants also completed the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPAQ).

Results: Qualitative analysis identified 6 primary themes:

• Current and/or Past Sport Participation,

• Current and/or Past Physical Activity Participation,

• Current and/or Past Exercise Participation,

• Exercise Improves Emotion Regulation and Enhances Perceptions toward Physical Body,

• Free Weights Provide the Option for Strength Training, and

• Treatment Centers should Prioritize Exercise and Nutrition.

Subthemes included exercise history during incarceration and a decrease in exercise during active addiction. GPAQ results revealed most participants had a history of manual labor.

Conclusion: Males who have a history of exercise prefer exercise during addiction treatment and feel that it is an important part of their recovery journey. Future research should explore exercise preferences among females in the treatment setting, as well as physical activity for those who are not already intrinsically motivated for exercise.

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