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Physical Activity Interventions to Decrease Substance Use in Youth: A Review of the Literature

Simonton, A. J. Young, C. C. Johnson, K. E.
Substance Use & Misuse
BACKGROUND: Adolescent substance use, a major problem in the United States, has a significant negative effect on both short- and long-term mental and physical health. Physical activity (PA) may offer potentially effective strategies to combat substance use in youth. Like substance use, PA behaviors developed during adolescence persist into adulthood, so adolescence may be an ideal period in which to implement PA interventions to prevent substance abuse. However, there are no known systematic literature reviews of PA-based interventions that target substance use in adolescence. OBJECTIVES: To review PA interventions for adolescents, including research designs, intervention characteristics, and measures of substance use. METHODS: Five databases were searched for articles published in English peer-reviewed journals. Search terms were related to the adolescent population, substance use, and PA interventions. RESULTS: 17 articles fit inclusion criteria. The results suggest that PA interventions may decrease substance use in teens. A majority of the interventions were delivered in high schools. Substance use measures/outcomes included intention or willingness to use, cessation, and actual use. Alcohol use was measured most, followed by marijuana and tobacco use. Although most of the studies utilized group sessions to deliver interventions, decreased substance use was also associated with one-time, multi-health consultations. Conclusions/Importance: School-based interventions targeting multiple health behaviors may offer a particularly effective and efficient way to decrease substance use in adolescents.

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