WASHINGTONTeenagers who increased the days on which they got just 20 minutes of exercise were able to cut down on their smoking habit. And teenage smokers were more likely to quit altogether if they participated in a smoking cessation/fitness programand they ramped up the days on which they got at least 30 minutes of physical activity, according to a study published online April 9.
"This study adds to evidence suggesting that exercise can help teenagers who are trying to quit smoking," says lead author Kimberly Horn, EdD, the Associate Dean for Research at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS). "Teens who boosted the number of days on which they engaged in at least 20 minutes of exercise, equivalent to a short walk, were more likely than their peers to resist lighting up a cigarette."
Horn and her colleagues tracked 233 teenagers from 19 high schools in West Virginia, a state with among the highest smoking rates in the nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which funded this study, says that nearly 13 percent of West Virginia residents under the age of 18 are current smokers.
The participants in the study were daily smokers with other risky behaviors. "It is not unusual for teenage smokers to engage in other unhealthy habits," Horn said. "Smoking and physical inactivity--for instance--often go hand in hand." The average teenager in the study smoked a half a pack on weekdays and a whopping pack a day on the weekends. A previous study of the same group compared three types of programs aimed at getting the participants to stop or cut down on smoking. That study found that an intensive smoking cessation intervention combined with a fitness program was the most successful way to help teenagers quit.
In the current study, Horn's team looked to see if an increase in physical activity would help teens quit regardless of the type of intervention. In this study, as in the
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George Washington University