Background: Smoking prevalence rates among women are declining at a slower rate than among men.
Objective: To determine if exercise, a healthful alternative to smoking, enhances the achievement and maintenance of smoking cessation.
Methods: Two hundred eighty-one healthy, sedentary female smokers were randomly assigned to either a cognitive-behavioral smoking cessation program with vigorous exercise (exercise) or to the same program with equal staff contact time (control). Subjects participated in a 12-session, group-based smoking cessation program. Additionally, exercise subjects were required to attend 3 supervised exercise sessions per week and control subjects were required to participate in 3 supervised health education lectures per week. Abstinence from smoking was based on self-report, was verified by saliva cotinine level, and was measured at 1 week after quit day (week 5), end of treatment (week 12), and 3 and 12 months later (20 and 60 weeks after quit day, respectively).
Results: Compared with control subjects (n = 147), exercise subjects (n = 134) achieved significantly higher levels of continuous abstinence at the end of treatment (19.4% vs 10.2%, P = .03) and 3 months (16.4% vs 8.2%, P=.03) and 12 months (11.9% vs 5.4%, P=.05) following treatment. Exercise subjects had significantly increased functional capacity (estimated VO2 peak, 25+/-6 to 28+/-6, P<.01) and had gained less weight by the end of treatment (3.05 vs 5.40 kg, P = .03).
Conclusions: Vigorous exercise facilitates short- and longer-term smoking cessation in women when combined with a cognitive-behavioral smoking cessation program. Vigorous exercise improves exercise capacity and delays weight gain following smoking cessation.