Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine prospectively whether exercise can modify weight gain after smoking cessation in women.
Methods: Data were analyzed from a 2-year follow-up period (1986-1988) in the Nurses' Health Study, an ongoing cohort of 121,700 US women aged 40 to 75 in 1986.
Results: The average weight gain over 2 years was 3.0 kg in the 1474 women who stopped smoking, and 0.6 kg among the 7832 women who continued smoking. Among women smoking 1 to 24 cigarettes per day, those who quit without changing their levels of exercise gained an average of 2.3 kg more (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.9, 2.6) than women who continued smoking. Women who quit and increased exercise by between 8 to 16 MET-hours (the work metabolic rate divided by the resting metabolic rate) per week gained 1.8 kg (95% CI = 1.0, 2.5), and the excess weight gain was only 1.3 kg (95% CI = 0.7, 1.9) in women who increased exercise by more than 16 MET-hours per week.
Conclusions: Smoking cessation is associated with a net excess weight gain of about 2.4 kg in middle-aged women. However, this weight gain is minimized if smoking cessation is accompanied by a moderate increase in the level of physical activity.