Klamert,Lisa 2023 04 04

Lee Klamert

Lee Klamert is a psychologist and doctoral researcher with a strong interest in participatory research and young people with problematic substance use at risk of experiencing health or other problems. With an equally strong passion for promoting ethical and respectful treatment, but also physical activity, she currently explores barriers to integrating preference-driven physical activity into young people's substance use treatment. Her research stems from her clinical work in inpatient and outpatient programs in Germany and Australia.


Title: Integrating physical activity in young people’s substance use treatment: Shared intervention design

Author(s): Lisa Klamert, Alex Parker, Melinda Craike, Gillinder Bedi, Susan Kidd

Introduction: One in 6 young Australians engage in problematic substance use (SU), which, together with comorbid mental ill-health, leads to difficulties in key life areas. Physical activity (PA) may reduce substance use, including frequency and cravings, providing a less stigmatizing treatment approach. Young people’s insights and partnership are key elements to the integration and implementation of PA interventions into clinical practice. The knowledge created by such partnerships can support health services to address barriers and identify how best to integrate PA into routine care.

Method: A quantitative survey (n=145) and qualitative focus group (n=4) were conducted to explore young people’s experienced barriers (access and engagement), service needs and preferences regarding the integration of targeted PA in substance use treatment. Young people aged 15-25 years at moderate or severe risk of substance-related health and other problems (measured with WHO ASSIST) were included.

Results & Findings: Young people perceived tailored PA interventions as highly acceptable (94.9%) and effective (95.6%) for reducing SU. Perceived barriers referred to access, logistical barriers (e.g., transportation, proximity) the impact of SU on PA engagement, lack of resources and barriers relating to social interaction (e.g., group dynamics, cultural acceptance). Young people recommended that services provide tailored PA interventions that promote choice, organisational support (e.g., PA scheduling), engagement aids (e.g., reward systems, positive testimonies), decision aids (e.g., informative education), sharing information amongst a mutlidisciplainary treatment team where appropriate, and monitoring progress. Active, service-led barrier reduction and partnership with young people in intervention design would lead to young people feeling valued and appreciated by service providers.

Discussion: Young people should be considered as partners in PA intervention design, to address barriers, acknowledge service needs and preferences, and achieve a service-led reduction of barriers to implementation of PA interventions for SU.