Quit Smoking for Real (or at least boost your odds)
Thursday, November 16 marks the 30th annual Great American Smokeout, a nationwide event encouraging smokers to kick the habit. And a timely new study has found that exercise1 can improve Smokeout participation.
Why You Should Quit (in case you don't already know)
A strong body of research shows that smoking hurts your body inside and out; it's linked to 10 different types of cancer and to premature wrinkling of the skin, the body's largest organ.
Smoking also increases the risk of heart disease. Even secondhand smoke can hurt; after smoking bans took effect in Helena, Montana, and Pueblo, Colorado, emergency room heart attack admissions dropped by 40% and 27%, respectively.2
None of that's surprising, given the findings of a recent Surgeon General's report3: cigarette smoke contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemicals, as well as toxic chemicals found in paint thinner, car exhaust, lighter fluid and chemical weapons.
What New Research Shows
Recently, Austrian researchers4 tried to get 68 patients to quit smoking with nicotine replacement therapies, either gum or the patch. Half of these patients also exercised regularly.
After 3 months, a full 80% of the exercisers had successfully quit smoking, compared to about 50% of the non-exercising group.
Why Exercise Helps
The researchers drew no definitive conclusions as to why exercise made such a significant difference, but it certainly makes sense.
Exercise is a major stress-buster. Smokers are used to lighting up in response to stress, be it from the holiday season, a break up or any challenging life event. But exercise releases that nervous tension to help keep you on the wagon.
Exercise also helps your body expel toxins. And if you've been smoking cigarettes, you have a lot of toxins to expel. Exercise can smooth this transition, getting your body back to normal more quickly.
For example, it can take up to 3 months after quitting for your lung functioning to improve.5 Regular aerobic exercise can speed this process, so you'll feel the benefits of quitting that much sooner, inspiring you to stick with it.
Â© GlobalFit 2006
1 You should consult your physician before beginning any exercise program
2 Research summary by the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism, The Texas Journalist, Spring 2006
3 The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General, June 2006
4 Research by Otto Wagner Hospital and Lainz Hospital, presented to American College of Chest Physicians, Oct. 2006
5 American Cancer Society, "Guide to Quitting Smoking," www.cancer.org