Encouraging exercise may help teens quit smoking

Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:31am EDT
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(Reuters) - Encouraging teenage smokers not only to quit, but to get physically active, may boost their odds of truly managing to kick the habit, a study said.

Some research in adults has suggested that exercise may help smokers quit, perhaps by easing withdrawal symptoms or taking the edge off cigarette cravings. The study, reported in the journal Pediatrics, looked at the effects of adding exercise advice to a teen-focused smoking cessation program.

"Not on Tobacco" (NOT) is the American Lung Association's quit program geared specifically for high school students. It's available in public schools across the United States, and studies have found that the average quit rate is about 21 percent.

In the state of West Virginia, where the study was done, smoking rates are high, while exercise rates are low, said lead researcher Kimberly Horn, of the West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown.

"We felt like (exercise) might be important for these kids, and that the effects of NOT could be boosted," Horn told Reuters Health.

To study the question, Horn's team randomly assigned 19 high schools to offer either the standard cessation program, the program plus exercise advice or a "brief intervention" in which teen smokers had one session with a program facilitator.

In all, 233 students took part in one of the three programs.

The standard NOT program offers 10 weekly small-group sessions, in which a facilitator helps teens figure out why they smoke and find ways to kick the habit. Teens in the exercise-added version also got advice on exercise, and a pedometer, to keep track of their daily activity levels.

After six months, the study found, the NOT-plus-exercise group had the highest self-reported quit rate, at 31 percent. That compared with 21 percent in the standard program and just under 16 percent in the brief-intervention group.   Continued...