• Craving is said to be a vital factor in alcohol misuse
  • One group of participants exercised for just five minutes
  • The ones who exercised saw a reduction in their alcohol craving

Looking for ways to stave off your craving for alcohol? A short exercise may help reduce these cravings and even improve mood, a new study has found.

Craving for alcohol is a "vital contributor" to alcohol misuse, the researchers of a study, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, said. However, there are only a few interventions that specifically target them.

"Alcohol abuse is associated with chronic disabling disease, such as cancer, heart disease, dementia and diabetes and has high human and economic costs," study lead and PhD student Aleksandra Gawor said in the news release from Loughborough University. "It often starts in young adults, especially students — and we found that misuse in this group has increased over the years."

For their study, 60 male and female university students between 18 and 25 years old participated in a session where they talked about their drinking habits and favorite drinks. The researchers also showed them a video about making cocktails, the university noted.

The participants were then separated into three groups -- the control group, wherein the participants only sat silently in the laboratory for five minutes with only the research assistant; the "active control" group, who were tasked to color a picture book for five minutes; and the intervention group, where the participants were subjected to a five-minute exercise circuit that included 45 seconds each of exercises such as squats, mountain climbers and jumping jacks.

Based on previous studies, which suggested that the similar reward circuits in the brain that are stimulated by exercise are also activated by substances such as alcohol, the idea is that exercise would replace the effects of alcohol and thus relieve the craving.

The researchers assessed the participants' mood, anxiety and alcohol cravings, and found that the exercise intervention did not only reduce alcohol craving "significantly" but also boosted the participants' positive mood while decreasing anxiety and negative mood.

On the other hand, even though the coloring activity did have benefits for the participants' mood and anxiety, it did not have much of an effect on their alcohol craving.

The participants were also subjected to an online program where they were given information about alcohol abuse.

"However, the team found that this only worsened negative mood and anxiety and did not change alcohol craving," Loughborough University noted.

"This knowledge will help aid the utilization of exercise as a potential therapeutic tool to reduce alcohol craving, prevent hazardous alcohol use and develop a greater understanding of the mechanisms that underlie addictive behavior," the researchers wrote.

The results of the study could prove useful for many people who may be struggling to manage their alcohol use. In the U.S., it is estimated that 14.5 million people aged 12 and above have alcohol use disorder in 2019.

Only recently, another study also found that an increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic also increased the need for liver transplants related to alcoholic hepatitis.

Fitness and Exercise
Pictured: A person getting ready for exercise. Pixabay