A recent study showed that among older women, exercise levels are a better predictor of longevity than smoking status. This isn’t to say that a daily walk makes smoking cigarettes any safer, of course…
However, this is one case where a good habit can actually help “cancel out” a bad habit. Specifically, by making that one bad habit a little easier to kick.
Physical activity benefits withdrawal
Researchers at St. George’s University of London examined the effects of exercise on nicotine-treated mice, who ran on exercise wheels for anywhere between two to 24 hours per day.
The researchers found that, compared to the mice that were sedentary, even moderate intensity exercise was able to dramatically reduce the severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
They also discovered an increase in the activation of specific nicotine receptors in the brain with exercise. This might help to explain why physical activity was so beneficial against withdrawal symptoms. However, the researchers are not yet certain exactly how this biological mechanism actually works.
Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding. And these results suggest that breaking a sweat could play a key protective role for anyone looking to quit smoking.
Of course, this was an animal study and there’s no way to guarantee that workouts will have the same effect on humans trying to kick their tobacco habit. However, in the case of exercising more and smoking less, I can’t see that any harm will be done in trying.
Replacing a cigarette break with a brisk walk around the block certainly isn’t going to hurt anybody’s efforts to get healthier. Exercise should take priority for anyone who want to live a longer life, regardless of their smoking status. Whether it takes the edge off of nicotine withdrawal or not, you’re still reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes… not to mention a long list of other deadly diseases.
And if there’s even a chance it could help you or someone you love to quit smoking for good, those could wind up being the most important 20 minutes of the day.
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Exercise Away the Urge to Smoke, published online, everydayhealth.com/smoking-cessation/living/exercise-can-help-you-quit-smoking.aspx