The acute effects of physical activity on cigarette cravings: systematic review and meta-analysis with individual participant data

Addiction. 2013 Jan;108(1):26-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.04034.x. Epub 2012 Nov 15.


Aims: To conduct an updated systematic review and the first meta-analysis of experimental trials investigating the acute effects of short bouts of physical activity (PA) on strength of desire (SoD) and desire to smoke (DtS) using individual participant data (IPD).

Methods: A systematic review of literature and IPD meta-analyses included trials assessing the acute effects of shorts bouts of PA on SoD and DtS among temporarily abstaining smokers not using pharmaceutical aids for smoking cessation. Authors of eligible studies were contacted and raw IPD were obtained. Two-stage and one-stage IPD random-effects meta-analyses were conducted. Participants engaging in PA were compared against control participants, using post-intervention SoD and DtS with baseline adjustments.

Results: A two-stage IPD meta-analysis assessing effects of PA on SoD yielded an average standardized mean difference (SMD) between PA and control conditions (across 15 primary studies) of -1.91 [95% confidence interval (CI): -2.59 to -1.22]. A two-stage IPD meta-analysis assessing effects of PA on DtS yielded an average SMD between PA and control conditions (across 17 primary studies) of -2.03 (95% CI: -2.60 to -1.46). Additional meta-analyses, including those using a one-stage model, those including only parallel arm studies and meta-analyses comparing only moderate exercise against a control condition, showed significant craving reduction following PA. Despite a high degree of between-study heterogeneity, effects sizes of all primary studies were in the same direction, with PA showing a greater reduction in cravings compared with controls.

Conclusions: There is strong evidence that physical activity acutely reduces cigarette craving.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Tobacco Products