You already know that there are about a zillion reasons why working out is awesome. But according to a new review published in Addiction, there’s one more to add to the pile: It may help smokers ease or stop cigarette cravings.
Researchers from the University of Exeter in the UK looked at previous clinical trials to determine whether or not a quick bit of exercise might help them control cravings and, in the end, smoke fewer cigarettes. And, they found, it did.
“After exercise, smokers reported about one-third lower cravings compared with being passive,” the review’s author, Adrian A. Taylor, told Reuters.
There’s not a clear reason as to why exercise helps. Maybe it’s the distraction factor, which is similarly preached to dieters as a way to avoid excessive snacking. Maybe it’s because the endorphins released during exercise are enough to flood the brain and crowd out any desire for a pleasure-giving cigarette. Or maybe it’s because, after puffing and panting through pained lungs, smokers are less likely to want to light up**.
But whatever the reason, as that same Reuters article on the subject points out, that exercise may ease or stop cigarette cravings may not actually equate to quitting. After all, quitting smoking has many other facets beyond simply being able to thwart cravings at times when lacing up is also possible. Other triggers (like getting in a car, or working, or doing anything else that would usually be equated with smoking) are still difficult to overcome, and exercise may not always be a viable option.
But that doesn’t mean that the entire review is useless. Further research is obviously needed, but it does indicate that smoking is one more thing that exercise might be able to help with, and that there may be more natural, healthy ways to help smokers quit for good.
**As a former smoker, this was definitely true for me. Nothing sounded more gross and sickening than a cigarette after a particularly oxygen-deprived run. Eventually, I absolutely credited exercise with the reason I quit smoking for good.
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