American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

It’s no secret that cigarettes contribute to lung cancer, heart disease and numerous other illnesses, yet people still do it.

Despite a great number of states and 44 of the 60 largest U.S. cities enacting smoking bans, people across the country still light up outside work, bars and even their homes.

Where peer pressure or health concern hasn’t influenced people to quit, a new study says exercise may help kick the habit.

Data presented at the World Congress of Cardiology states exercise may not only help smokers quit and remain smoke-free, it increases life expectancy in both smokers and non-smokers alike. The study of 434,190 people in Taiwan between 1996 and 2008 revealed active smokers who participated in at least moderate activity were 55 percent more likely to quit than their inactive counterparts.

Dr. C.P. Wen, one of the project’s lead researchers, told the Congress, “If smokers can continue to exercise, not only (will they) increase the quit rate, but (they can also) reduce their mortality for all causes and for CVD (cardiovascular disease) in the long run."

A 2011 study held among teenagers in West Virginia found similar results last year. Research published in Pediatrics magazine stated the American Lung Association's voluntary tobacco cessation program for teens, Not On Tobacco (N-O-T), produced better results when participants were encouraged to exercise.

Aside from getting your mind off your pack, there are loads of other benefits to using exercise as a way to quit smoking. Here are a few:

  1. No weight gain - Weight gain among quitters is fairly common – some even say inevitable. Cut it off at the pass by incorporating 30 minutes a day of your favorite exercise, which will help boost your metabolism and burn off extra calories you may be consuming. Some studies have even shown that exercising at a vigorous intensity can help suppress hunger immediately after exercise due to the effect it has on hormones that regulate appetite.
  2. More energy - Feeling tired or fatigued is common among people trying to quit smoking, and exercise can help that too. Physical activity can boost your blood flow carrying oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue, thereby improving their ability to produce more energy (the chemical adenosine triphosphate – or ATP). Researchers at the University of Georgia found that sedentary, otherwise healthy adults who engaged in as little as 20 minutes of low-to-moderate aerobic exercise three days a week for 6 consecutive weeks reported feeling less fatigued and more energized.
  3. Better attitude - Chances are you’ve experienced the wrath of a friend or family member kicking the habit. Irritability and crankiness are common among quitters, but exercise can help. A University of Vermont study found attitudes among people immediately following exercise were significantly better than people who did no physical activity. They were also in a better mood other intervals following their workout: 1, 2, 4, 8, 12 and 24 hours. Other research has also indicated physical activity can help bump up your brain’s production of endorphins, also known as your feel-good neurotransmitters.

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