Exercise Improves Smoking Cessation Significantly In Teens
September 20, 2011

Exercise Improves Smoking Cessation Significantly In Teens


It is well known that exercise has many health benefits, and now it has been discovered that it also aids in the cessation of smoking.

A new study, published in the September 19 issue of Pediatrics, found that teens, especially boys, were most likely to quit smoking if an exercise program was followed at the same time.

Researchers spent six months tracking 233 West Virginia students between the ages of 16 and-a-half and 19, all of whom smoked at least half a pack on weekdays, and a full pack on weekends with most beginning the habit around the age of 11.

Dr. Kimberly Horn, professor of community medicine at West Virginia University explained to Ryan Jaslow of CBS News: “The main rationale for the study was driven by our high rates of smoking and our low levels of physical activity. And what we found is that those two behaviors go hand in hand.”

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just over 17 percent of American teenagers are current cigarette smokers. Teen smokers are also more likely to use alcohol and illegal drugs, according to the CDC and almost 30 percent of teen smokers will continue to smoke and will die in later life from a smoking-related disease, USA Today reports.

The study highlights that while there have been numerous studies on effective smoking cessation for adults, programs attempting to get teens to stop smoking have largely centered on just saying no. 

However a new program called “Not on Tobacco”, or NOT, involves counseling on healthy lifestyles, receiving support and managing stress.

For the current study, teens were selected from separate schools to one of three groups: the NOT group, NOT plus physical activity (NOT + FIT) and a group that was given a brief intervention of 15 minutes of smoking cessation advice.

A brief counseling session was given to the NOT group at the start of the study, and then teens were offered a group session once a week.

The NOT + FIT group were offered everything available to the NOT group with the addition of a log book and a pedometer to record their daily steps and also received an additional five minutes of encouragement each week.

Fourteen percent of the teens who had the physical activity component quit smoking after  the 3 month study. Surprisingly, the boys´ success rate was twice as high as girls who followed the same program. Less than 5 percent of teens in the single session group stopped smoking, while 11 percent of teens in the NOT program succeeded.

“Physical activity, even in small or moderate doses, can greatly increase the odds of quitting,” Horn told Serena Gordon of HealthDay. “And, this type of approach attempts to change more than one behavior.”

The effect of adding exercise to the study may have greater success with teenage boys because boys are more physically active than girls at this age, Horn explained.

Dr. Jonathan Pletcher, from Children´s Hospital of Pittsburgh explained the results to Gordon: “There´s a lot about smoking and adolescents that´s very different than smoking and adults. Teens pick up smoking for a whole variety of reasons.”

“Smoking may be the norm in your peer group, or you may be dating someone who smokes. Smoking may be a way to rebel against parents. Nicotine addiction often isn´t the driving factor,” explained adolescent medicine specialist. If teens are going to stop smoking, they have to know why they´re smoking and institute new behaviors to replace the old ones.”

Seeing the success of the program in West Virginia, experts are hoping it can work everywhere. West Virginia has the worst teen smoking problem in the country, with statistics showing 29 percent of people under 18 smoke, compared to a national average of 20 percent.

“This study demonstrates that our West Virginia kids can quit smoking, given the right tools,” Horn said. “We simply need to make sure we´re getting the right tools out there in the schools and the communities.”


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