Don’t just kick the habit exercise it away. Smokers find it easier to quit with the help of an exercise program. Here’s how and why.
Recent studies indicate that smoking appears less attractive after an exercise session. Perhaps it’s all the endorphins rushing through your system. Typically after exercise, we feel relaxed, satisfied, and overall good. These are the same emotions many crave when reaching for a cigarette. The big difference: After an exercise session, you have the added benefit of feeling and being healthy.
A study reported from England’s University of Exeter shows exercise can minimize the power of cigarettes and smoking-related images to grab smokers’ attention. The study involved intervals of cigarette-related images and exercise. Eye-tracking technology proved the reaction to smoking cues was lessened in groups who participated in exercise before viewing. This is significant. A stint of exercise weakens the attraction for smokers and those trying to quit.
Multiple studies show light to moderate physical activity for five to 15 minutes can help reduce cravings and responses to smoking prompts. Extended, higher intensity workouts may have a greater effect, but that is not yet proven.
“If a drug revealed the same effects [as exercise], it would be immediately marketed as a valuable aid to help people quit smoking or cut down,” remarks Adrian Taylor, PhD, MSc, of the School of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter. Yet another situation for which exercise is the ideal “prescription.”
Half-hour of exercise five days a week helps avoid weight gain and smoking relapses. Even smaller amounts of physical activity, including brisk walks, help prevent weight gain and cigarette cravings.
Once you’ve quit, it’s easier to start exercising than give up sweets, in part because smoking is an oral habit. There is a literal void left by the cigarettes, which food fills. Simultaneously, it acts as a comfort source during the withdrawal period. Studies have established exercise as an aid to smoking cessation, and also as the perfect solution to counteract associated weight gain.
Remember to drink plenty of water. It acts as a craving buster. (This is true in the case of any snack attack.) It also flushes out residual toxins left in your body from the nicotine.
People exercise for their health, smokers included. For those who’ve been away from fitness activities since school, exercising would strengthen your willpower as well as your body.