Objective: Aerobic exercise is considered a potential adjunctive treatment for heroin addicts, but little is known about its mechanisms. Less severe cravings and greater inhibitory control have been associated with reduced substance use. The aim of the current study was to determine the effects, as measured by behavioral and neuroelectric measurements, of acute aerobic exercise on heroin cravings and inhibitory control induced by heroin-related conditions among heroin addicts. Design: The present study used a randomized controlled design. Methods: Sixty male heroin addicts who met the DSM-V criteria were recruited from the Isolated Detoxification Center in China and randomly assigned to one of two groups; one group completed a 20-min bout of acute stationary cycle exercise with vigorous intensity (70–80% of maximum heart rate, exercise group), and the other group rested (control group). The self-reported heroin craving levels and inhibitory control outcomes (measured by a heroin-related Go/No-Go task) were assessed pre- and post-exercise. Results: The heroin craving levels in the exercise group were significantly attenuated during, immediately following, and 40 min after vigorous exercise compared with before exercise; moreover, during exercise, a smaller craving was observed in the exercise group than in the control group. Acute exercise also facilitated inhibition performance in the No-Go task. After exercise, the participants’ accuracy, the N2d amplitudes, and the theta two band spectral power during the No-Go conditions were higher in the exercise group than in the control group. Interestingly, significant correlations between the changes in these sensitive measurements and the changes in cravings were observed. Conclusions: This is the first empirical study to demonstrate that aerobic exercise may be efficacious for reducing heroin cravings and promoting inhibitory control among heroin addicts.
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