Could Fitbits Help Women Stay Sober?

By May Wilkerson 06/14/16

A new study is examining whether exercise could serve as a healthy coping mechanism to help women stay sober. 

Could Fitbits Help Women Stay Sober?

Could Fitbits help women cut back on drinking? The National Institutes of Health hopes so. The federal organization is spending more than $200,000 doling out Fitbits, wearable devices which track your exercise throughout the day, to women suffering from alcoholism and depression, according to Free Beacon.

The intervention is being spearheaded by researchers at Butler Hospital in Rhode Island, who say exercise may be uniquely suited to helping women combat alcoholism. “Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are the [third] leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. and are associated with significant economic burden and health-related negative consequences,” reads the grant for the project. “While women may be less likely to develop AUDs, they experience more significant negative health consequences of alcohol use than men. Due to stigma, shame, and child care issues; Women are less likely to receive specialty addiction treatment.”

Compared to men, women may be more likely to drink as a response to emotional turmoil, say the researchers. They believe exercise could serve as a healthier coping mechanism to help them stay sober. “Relapse rates are very high in both men and women but significant gender differences emerge in the predictors of relapse,” the grant reads. “Women are more likely to relapse in unpleasant, negative emotional states and depressive symptoms and negative affect mediate the relationship between these stressors and drinking outcomes. More so than men, Women with AUDs report drinking to cope with negative emotions.”

The project will recruit about 50 women, who will be given Fitbits to wear for 12 weeks, throughout which time they will also receive weekly supportive emails. Researchers hope that the Fitbits will encourage the women to turn to exercise to “cope with negative emotional states and alcohol craving during early recovery,” according to the grant. The two-year project has cost over $200,000 so far. Fitbits cost about $110 on average.

This isn’t the first study to investigate the role of exercise in helping people stay sober. A similar study that began last month is developing a smartphone app called “Fit&Sober,” aimed at encouraging alcoholics to exercise more. The app will be tested on 160 people with alcohol use disorder to see if they are able to improve their health and decrease their alcohol intake.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.