Even Moderate Exercise Can Help Smokers Quit
> 3/14/2007 8:23:35 AM

In virtually every case, the best plan to quit smoking is the one that you will stick with, but often exercise and physical activity can play an important role in helping smokers deal with cravings. While lack of fitness can be a barrier to using exercise as part of a quitting plan, a new report has found that even moderate exercises like walking can prove helpful.

Published in the April edition of the journal Addiction, the new meta-study by researchers from London and Toronto shows that relatively small doses of physical activity can help control cravings during the smoking cessation process. The team reached this conclusion after reviewing 12 previous studies that addressed the role of exercise in the quitting process. In reporting on this study, the AP spoke with another doctor who saw potential in this new information:

"What's surprising is the strength of the effect," said Dr. Robert West, professor of health psychology at University College London. West was not involved in the review. "They found that the acute effects of exercise were as effective as a nicotine patch," he said.

West cautioned that it was unknown how long the effects of exercise would last. "You could in theory use exercise to deal with short bouts of nicotine cravings, but we don't know if it would help in the longer term," he said. It is likely that exercise would have to be combined with a larger strategy of other anti-smoking techniques to be successful in helping people quit.

So for those contemplating an end to their addiction, the message seems pretty clear: make exercise a part of your routine. If something as small a short stroll can have as positive an effect as these researchers claim, then no one has an excuse to not get up and fight their cravings on their feet. There are new treatments that can help smokers move on, but the desire to quit and break the addiction still must be the motivating force. As reports have shown, nicotine levels have been increasing, meaning those urges to pick up a cigarette may be tougher than ever to overcome, but physical activity can and should be a potent counter to those cravings.

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