Research report

What about sport and physical exercise in substance use disorder recovery?

Health professionals’ perceptions

The study addressed professionals active in substance use disorders (SUD) recovery, with the aim of enhancing the promotion of exercise and sport interventions as part of their daily practice. The initial purpose of the study was to capture their perceptions about the connection between sports participation and SUD recovery, exploring their views on the relationship between sport and physical exercise (PE) participation and the positive life skills development of people undergoing SUD recovery. Furthermore, the study explored the extent to which they possess the necessary knowledge, skills, resources, and commitment to design, implement, and evaluate PE and sport interventions in SUD recovery. In this multi-method research approach study, 421 professionals from a total of 62 SUD treatment organizations, from 9 European countries, completed a self-report tool (Woodard et al., 2004), and also 26 interviews, and 4 focus groups (30 participants) were conducted based on an interview protocol. Data collection took place from September 2020 to May 2021. Quantitative and qualitative analysis showed that health professionals support the idea that sport and PE are safe and healthy environments for people with SUD, where they can improve various areas of their lives by adopting healthy behaviors. However, while they declare an understanding of the values of exercise and sports participation in SUD recovery, as well as high knowledge and commitment to the promotion of sport and PE interventions in the specific population, they also declare deficits in skills, and resources for sports program implementation.

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