August 25, 2012

Exercise Could Help Reduce Smokers’ Nicotine Cravings

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

Smokers trying to fight the urge to light up a cigarette might want to do a little walking or bike riding, as a new study suggests that exercise could help suppress nicotine cravings.

University of Exeter exercise and health psychology professor Adrian A. Taylor and colleagues analyzed 19 previous clinical trials and found a correlation between physical activity and reduced cravings among smokers, Amy Norton of Reuters reported on Friday.

"For its study, published in the journal Addiction, Taylor's team combined the results from small clinical trials that tested the immediate effects of exercise on smokers' cigarette cravings," Norton said. "Smokers were randomly assigned to either exercise - most often, brisk walking or biking - or some kind of 'passive' activity, like watching a video or just sitting quietly."

The University of Exeter researchers discovered that people were less eager to smoke after a workout than they were beforehand, the Reuters reported explained. Specifically, they observed about one-third lower cravings among the active group when compared with the passive study participants.

While they aren't willing to say that participating in regular athletic activities could be used to help a smoker kick the habit (that remains uncertain), the researchers did tell Norton that if a person finds that exercise helps them smoke less, they should -- to borrow a phrase from a popular shoe manufacturer -- "Just do it."

The reason for the results is unclear as well, but Taylor told Norton that it could be because exercise provides a distraction that gets a person's mind off their tobacco cravings. Alternatively, it could be due to the mood-enhancing aspects of such activity, leading to a reduced desire to turn to cigarettes as a mood enhancer.

"None of the smokers in these studies was in a quit program or using nicotine replacement products, like gums or patches," Norton said. "Since nicotine replacement therapy curbs cravings, Taylor noted, exercise might have less of an effect for smokers who are using those products, or possibly the other medications used for smoking cessation."

"Still, exercise is a generally healthy habit for anyone," she added. "And, Taylor pointed out, smokers often gain weight when they try to kick the habit -- one reason that some people, particularly women, go back to smoking“¦ He noted, though, that more research is needed to see just how effective exercise might be in warding off post-quitting pounds.”