Sweating out the cravings

January 19, 2010, University of Western Ontario

It's been 18 excruciating hours since you last had one. You're irritable, stressed out, and the cravings are intense. There is only one thing you can think about firing up - and it isn't your treadmill. But that's exactly what University of Western Ontario researchers have been hard at work trying to convince smokers to do.

Dr. Harry Prapavessis, Director of Western's new Exercise and Health Psychology Laboratory, and his team (Dr. Anita Cramp, Dr. Mary Jung and Therese Harper) are getting smokers to make the switch from lighting up to lacing up in an effort to help beat their cravings and kick their smoking habit - for good.

Dr. Harry Prapavessis and his team have shown that supervised exercise in addition to pharmacological agents like (NRT) helps smoking cessation, improves physical fitness, and delays weight gain in women smokers.

"However, as with all smoking cessation intervention, relapse effects after stopping the program are common problems."

In a recent study, 70% of women had stopped smoking at the end of the 12-week program, but after one year, only 27% remained abstinent. "Our physical fitness and weight data supported the abstinence data," said Prapavessis. "This suggests that exercise needs to be maintained for individuals to continue to kick the habit." He goes on to say "it is important to determine whether inexpensive home and community-based lifestyle exercise maintenance programs can maintain exercise, fitness and weight after cessation program termination, and hence prevent (reduce) smoking relapse".

Mary Jung, a Canadian Institutes of Heath Research (CIHR) post-doctoral fellow, is working on a Canadian Cancer Society funded project that will test these notions. "This research project will not only contribute to a better understanding of the role plays as a cessation aid, but it will also explore a means of increasing the cost-effectiveness of long-term programs" said Jung.

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