Although 70% of smokers in America want to quit, a recent study found that only 6% succeed. Researchers conduct a meta-analysis to assess the effectiveness of exercises on smoking cessation.
Smoking is one of the largest public health threats today resulting in about six million smoking-related deaths each year, with that figure set to rise to more than eight million by the year 2030. Smoking abstinence rates vary when techniques such as counseling and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) are used in tandem. Recently, exercise has been examined as a treatment to abate nicotine cravings, thus leading to a gradual smoking cessation.
The first meta-analysis, conducted by researchers from Thailand, examined which type of exercise is the most effective for smoking cessation. It was published in BioMed Central. The researchers performed online searches on databases such as PubMed, Science Direct, and Web of Science, yielding 19 studies that specifically looked at different exercise interventions and their effectiveness in smoking cessation. The types of exercise intervention included activities such as aerobic exercise, strength training, yoga, and recreational activity.
This meta-analysis found only low to moderate quality evidence that exercise positively impacted smoking cessation. Only yoga showed any sort of effectiveness as an aid to smoking cessation, however, the study on yoga also included cognitive behavioural therapy, so it is difficult to differentiate which treatment had the greatest impact. It could be that the short-term relief provided from one bout of exercise daily does not provide enough relief from nicotine cravings over a long duration of time.
The exercise interventions performed in the reviewed studies are also of low intensity, and future studies should examine how high-intensity interval training or multiple bouts of physical activity per day to combat smoking cravings. In a more broad sense, educators should take a more proactive approach to teach people about the dangers of smoking and its associated long-term health effects.
This meta-analysis looked at a total of 19 studies which examined the effects of exercises on smoking cessation. The authors found that the overall quality of the data was not sufficient to draw any firm conclusions regarding the effectiveness of exercises on smoking cessation. This study indicates that there is an urgent need for high-quality studies to determine the effectiveness of different types of exercises on smoking cessation.
Written by Devang Nijsure, MSc
Klinsophon T, Thaveeratitham P, Sitthipornvorakul E, Janwantanakul P. Effect of exercise type on smoking cessation : a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Res Notes. 2017:1-21. doi:10.1186/s13104-017-2762-y.