New study shows that cigarette enjoyment isn’t enhanced during exercise-aided quit attempt

Canadian Cancer Society

A new holistic study from Western University confirms that exercise is an excellent ‘gateway’ behaviour for setting a smoker up both mentally and physically to quit the highly-addictive habit and also, for the first time ever, establishes important baselines regarding a person’s desire for smoking during the pre-quit period based on novel topography quantifiers like puff counts, puff volume and ‘interpuff’ intervals.

In more traditional smoking cessation studies, investigators encourage participants to live an active lifestyle through exercise while quitting smoking at the same time. Most findings show that this strategy may not work as the smoker struggles adapting to not one but two behaviour changes: exercising more and smoking less.

Western researchers asked participants, who were all female, to exercise leading up to a targeted quit date, which was set four weeks away. They also measured smoking topography and sensation patterns during the pre-quit period to better understand a smoker’s cigarette behaviour, satisfaction, reward and enjoyment.

The findings of Harry Prapavessis, Director of Western’s Exercise & Health Psychology Laboratory, and former Western PhD graduate student Stefanie De Jesus were recently published by the journal Addictive Behaviors.

“By not saying anything about quitting, even though [study] participants know that there is a targeted quit date in mind, they just naturally reduce the amount that they smoke while exercising even though they are not being asked,” says Prapavessis, who says future studies may investigate vaping behaviour.

De Jesus and Prapavessis also charted how participants reacted to the cigarettes that were smoked during the pre-quit period and discovered that these cigarettes were no longer enjoyed as much as they were before the exercise program was undertaken. It was previously understood that smokers might really enjoy the cigarettes that they do smoke when trying to quit.

The researchers also measured smoking topography factors, like puff counts, puff volume and ‘interpuff’ intervals, during the study; and found no evidence to support compensation for instance, when study participants reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked they did not smoke those cigarettes more aggressively.

“In other words, not only do people reduce how much they smoke — without being told — during an exercise-aided smoking cessation intervention, but they’re also not enjoying those cigarettes as much or smoking them any differently,” says Prapavessis.

These findings imply that female smokers who exercise prior to a quit attempt are in a favourable state to achieve cessation.

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