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Smoking Cessation Health Center

Exercise Helps Kick Cigarette Cravings

Even a Brisk, 5-Minute Walk May Help in Quitting Smoking
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 13, 2007 -- Exercise may curb cigarette cravings, even if you've only got five minutes and don't want to get sweaty.

Walking briskly for five minutes or doing some stretches may help kill cigarette cravings. Longer, more intense exercise sessions also help but aren't necessary.

That's according to a review of 12 studies on cigarette cravings and exercise.

The review appears in the journal Addiction. The reviewers included Adrian Taylor, PhD, MSc, of the School of Sport and Health Sciences at England's University of Exeter.

The 12 studies differed in design. Each required different amounts and types of exercise. Most included smokers who don't exercise regularly.

In most studies, the smokers were asked not to smoke for a certain amount of time, ranging from half an hour to about 17 hours, on average. In some studies, they were put in tempting situations, such as being in a room with a lit cigarette.

Overall, the studies show that exercise reduces smokers' cigarette cravings and prolongs the amount of time before smokers light up a cigarette.

Encouraging Results

The reduction in smokers' cigarette cravings after exercise was "encouraging," the reviewers write in the journal.

"If a drug revealed the same effects it would immediately be marketed as a valuable aid to help people quit smoking or cut down," Taylor says in a University of Exeter news release.

The review doesn't show exactly how exercise cut cigarette cravings, but the reviewers argue that exercise does more than merely distract people from the urge to smoke.

Further studies are needed, but Taylor's team points out that exercise curbs stress, improves mood, and spurs the release of brain chemicals that may override nicotine cravings.

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