Using sports to quit smoking

Teens finding it difficult to quit smoking could benefit from a proven tip: Get moving!

Teens finding it difficult to quit smoking could benefit from a proven tip: Get moving!

According to a recent study, teenage boys who took part in a smoking cessation program combined with regular exercise were more likely to quit for good than those who didn’t exercise. This is the first study to show that an exercise plan for teenage smokers can help them kick two bad habits at once: smoking and inactivity. For young smokers, breaking the habit before adulthood can be especially important, because those who start smoking as teenagers find it more difficult to quit later on.

The study involved high school students from West Virginia, a state with both a significant obesity problem and widespread tobacco use among young people, with roughly a third of them being smokers. Researchers recruited 233 teenagers aged 14 to 19 who smoked an average of half a pack of cigarettes per day during the week and a pack a day on week-ends. The participants were assigned to one of three groups: the first received a single smoking-cessation session, the second went through a 10-week anti-smoking program, and those in the third group were given pedometers and counselling on starting an exercise plan, in addition to going through the anti-smoking program.

After three months, 5 percent of the students in the first group and 8 percent in the second group had quit smoking. In the third group, the results were very different for boys than they were for girls. While the boys in the third group had the most success quitting smoking (24 percent) and keeping it up after six months, the girls in that same group were no more likely to have quit smoking than the participants in the second group. Teenage boys are typically more motivated and competitive when engaging in sports, which could in part explain why boys reaped greater benefits from exercise than the girls did.

Exercise is known to assist in smoking cessation by decreasing stress levels, calming cravings and preventing weight gain. These results could also apply to adults.

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