Exercise effective in helping pregnant women kick the habit

September 23, 2008

Exercise could be a useful tool in helping pregnant women to give up smoking, according to new research published today in the open access journal BMC Public Health. Despite the warnings, 17% of women in the UK and 20% of women in the US still admit to smoking during pregnancy. This often leads to lower birth weight, higher infant mortality, and is linked to learning difficulties, problem behaviour and asthma in childhood.

Most attempts to give up smoking unaided end in failure. The most successful methods of stopping smoking involve a combination of nicotine replacement and behavioural therapy, but there are concerns that nicotine replacement may harm the fetus. Exercise can reduce the cravings experienced by smokers and there is some evidence to show that it can help non-pregnant women to quit.

Michael Ussher and colleagues from St George's, University of London conducted two pilot studies into whether physical exercise could feasibly help pregnant women quit smoking.

For both studies, pregnant women over 18, who smoked at least a cigarette a day, were recruited 12 to 20 weeks into pregnancy. In one study, women did supervised exercise once a week for six weeks; in the other, women did two sessions of exercise a week for six weeks, then one session a week for three weeks. The participants were also encouraged to do additional exercise on their own and all received advice and counselling towards stopping smoking and becoming more active.

A quarter of the 32 women recruited for the studies gave up smoking before giving birth. This is similar to the number of non-pregnant smokers that quit using nicotine replacement. Furthermore, participants reported other positive benefits including weight loss, improved self-image and reduced cravings.

According to Dr. Ussher, "These results are very encouraging and we are now conducting a randomised controlled trial with 850 women. Regular exercise is ideal for any pregnant women who smoke as it's obviously safe and the benefits are enormous".

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: GP referral to weight loss program is effective, acceptable and takes 30 seconds

Related Stories

Does it matter how long you sit—if you are fit?

October 19, 2016

More and more studies confirm that sitting is bad for our health, increasing the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and other lifestyle-related illnesses such as diabetes. Some studies have estimated that being ...

US life expectancy lags behind other wealthy nations

October 7, 2016

(HealthDay)—The United States lags behind other advanced nations when it comes to infant mortality and the life expectancy of its citizens, according to a comprehensive review of global health statistics.

Recommended for you

Want to exercise more? Get yourself some competition

October 27, 2016

Imagine you're a CEO trying to get your employees to exercise. Most health incentive programs have an array of tools—pamphlets, websites, pedometers, coaching, team activities, step challenges, money—but what actually ...

Sleep loss tied to changes of the gut microbiota in humans

October 25, 2016

Results from a new clinical study conducted at Uppsala University suggest that curtailing sleep alters the abundance of bacterial gut species that have previously been linked to compromised human metabolic health. The new ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.