Smokers trying to kick the habit should consider taking a brisk walk or going biking the next time they get the urge to light up, according to a British study.
The new findings recently appeared in the journal Addiction. University of Exeter researchers studied combined data from 19 previous clinical trials and found briefly exercising generally helped hopeful quitters reduce their cigarette cravings. Whether or not this actually enhanced their chances of quitting completely was unclear.
“Certainly, exercise seems to have temporary benefits, and as such can be strongly recommended,” said Adrian Taylor, a professor of exercise and health psychology at Exeter, who led the study.
In study trials, smokers—none of whom were participating in a quit program or using nicotine replacement products, such as gums or patches—were randomly assigned to either exercise, typically speed walking or biking, or a “passive” activity like watching TV or simply sitting quietly.
Results revealed people felt less desire to smoke after working out than they did before. While the reasons were not clear, Taylor speculated exercise either provides a diversion or heightens people’s moods, so that they don’t feel a need to satisfy themselves with a cigarette.