Exercise helps women fight smoking cravings, but effect is short-lived

May 19, 2011, Brown University

Dozens of studies on whether moderate exercise can curb the nicotine cravings of women smokers have added up to an apparent contradiction: it seems to work in short-term, well controlled lab experiments, but then fizzles out in treatment trials. A new study may explain why and help researchers devise a practical therapy.

The explanation suggested in the results of research led by David Williams, an assistant professor of community health at Brown University, is that while does help improve the mood of smokers and curtail their cravings, the effect is short-lived.

"What we found is that although there is no chronic effect of exercise on cigarette cravings and affective , there is an acute effect that diminishes over a period of several hours to 1-2 days, but can be renewed with each bout of exercise," said Williams, first author of the study published May 11 in the journal Addictive Behaviors. "One implication for these findings is that exercise may be a useful , but it has to be done frequently enough and consistently enough because the effects that it has diminish over time."

To conduct their pilot study, Williams and colleagues at The Miriam Hospital, the University of Massachusetts at Boston, and St. George University of London signed up 60 for an 8-week regimen of treatment. They were all given quitting counseling and . Half were assigned to the exercise group, in which they briskly walked on a treadmill at the study center for 50 minutes three times a week. The 30 women in the control group watched 30-minute health and wellness videos three times a week.

For each group the researchers asked them about their mood and cigarette cravings immediately before and after each session. They also asked them again when they reached their next destination after each exercise or wellness session.

The researchers found that, relative to participants in the control group, those who exercised were more likely to experience improved mood and decreased cigarette cravings, but that these effects dissipated by the time of their next exercise session. On one hand, the improvements in affect and cravings are encouraging, Williams said, but clearly it wasn't sustained even over a matter of a few days.

The next step, he said, is to enroll a larger sample of women in a randomized, controlled trial. That work is well underway because in February his pilot research led to a new NIH grant for $2.2 million over 5 years to study the issue in further detail. The study will allow him and his team to provide enrolled women with electronic devices where they can record their cravings and mood more frequently.

Once Williams has a better sense of when the effects of exercise wear off, he'll know how frequent exercise needs to be to sustain its anti-craving benefit.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Number of older people with four or more diseases will double by 2035, say researchers

January 23, 2018
A study published today in Age and Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society, reports that the number of older people diagnosed with four or more diseases will double between 2015 and 2035. A third ...

Placental accumulation of flame retardant chemical alters serotonin production in rats

January 22, 2018
A North Carolina State University-led research team has shown a connection between exposure to a widely used flame retardant chemical mixture and disruption of normal placental function in rats, leading to altered production ...

Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant

January 22, 2018
Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple's chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Group suggests pushing age of adolescence to 24

January 22, 2018
A small group of researchers with the Royal Children's Hospital in Australia is suggesting that it might be time to change the span of years that define adolescence—from the current 10 to 19 to a proposed 10 to 24 years ...

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

cisono
not rated yet May 21, 2011
If exercise has an anti-craving benefit, how does David Williams explain the smokers who light a cigarette as soon as they put their foot outside the gym?

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.