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Teens smoke less with a short daily walk: What about older adults?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A new study shows teens who take a walk can reduce their tobacco cravings. But if you are a parent who smokes, consider taking a walk with your child to help both of you kick the habit.

Studies have shown exercise can reduce nicotine cravings temporarily. Regular exercise can help reduce symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

Kimberly Horn, EdD, the Associate Dean for Research at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) tracked 233 teens to see if taking just a short walk could help with smoking cessation.

Teens were from Virginia, U.S. that has one of the highest teen smoking rates in the country. The youth also participated in other risky behaviors including inactivity that is often associated with smoking.

The current study was focused on finding out if just boosting walking could help teens with smoking cessation. The researchers conducted a previous study showing a combination of fitness and smoking cessation intervention was the successful at curbing youth smoking habits.

In all, 3 programs were compared:

  • Smoking intervention with a short anti-smoking lecture or the "Not on Tobacco" program
  • The above interventions combined with fitness
  • Fitness program

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The study results showed teens that boosted their physical activity to any degree were most successful in cutting back on smoking.

Horn said in a press release: "We don't fully understand the clinical relevance of ramping up daily activity to 20 or 30 minutes a day with these teens. But we do know that even modest improvements in exercise may have health benefits. Our study supports the idea that encouraging one healthy behavior can serve to promote another, and it shows that teens, often viewed as resistant to behavior change, can tackle two health behaviors at once."

Based on the study findings, it would seem adults who smoke should also take the benefits of exercise for smoking cessation seriously. Even if researchers are not sure how physical activity works to curb smoking, taking a 20 to 30 minute walk with your teen could be a worthwhile family intervention for improving communication as well as smoking cessation.

George Washington University
April 9, 2013

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