Total Health Approach to Quitting Smoking

Smoking cessation program including physical activity and health tips result in higher quit rate

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Quitting smoking is a difficult task. But quitters may find it easier to stay on task by making quitting a part of healthy lifestyle choices that include getting more exercise.

In a recent study, researchers tested three types of smoking cessation interventions on high school students in West Virginia.

The results showed teens in the intervention group that incorporated healthy lifestyle tips and encouraged physical activity were more likely to quit smoking than students in smoking intervention classes alone.

"Get active in your efforts to quit smoking."

Kimberly Horn, EdD, MSW,from the School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, DC, led an investigation into the relationship between physical activity and smoking in teens.

“Evidence shows that a majority of youth smokers are physically inactive…Emerging research suggests that physical activity…may be protective against smoking initiation and increased smoking among youth,” the authors wrote.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), West Virginia ranks 45th among the states with 13 percent of minors (aged 12-17) currently smoking.

For this randomized clinical trial, 19 public high schools in West Virginia provided 233 students that had smoked at least one cigarette in the past 30 days but wanted to quit.

Around 74 percent of the students had made at least one previous attempt to quit smoking. A total of 70 percent of the students had a parent who was a current smoker. And 98 percent of the students’ had friends who were current smokers.

Each high school was randomly assigned to one of three groups: basic smoking intervention, Not-On-Tobacco (an anti-smoking program) or Not-On-Tobacco with physical activity.  

Basic smoking interventions consisted of 10 to 15 minutes of advice about the harmful effects of smoking and provided a brochure to students on how to quit smoking.

The Not-On-Tobacco program consisted of the basic smoking intervention, plus 10 weekly anti-smoking sessions led by a trained facilitator.

The physical activity program combined the Not-On-Tobacco program with fitness challenges and goals, health tips and a pedometer (a tool to measure how many steps a person takes). Pedometer activity was logged at each weekly session.

Teachers were given a full day and a half of training to be able to facilitate the Not-On-Tobacco program and the physical activity element.

The researchers asked the teenagers about their exercise and smoking habits at the start and end of the study and three months afterwards.

The results showed that teens in the physically active group increased the number of days they got 20, 30 and 60 minutes of daily activity over the course of the study.

Teens in the physically active group who increased the number of days they got 30 minutes of exercise were 1.5 times more likely to quit smoking than teens in other categories.

“Teens who increased the number of days on which they received at least 20 minutes of exercise were significantly more likely to reduce their daily cigarette use, with those in the Not-On-Tobacco + physical activity condition having the highest likelihood of reducing smoking,” concluded the authors.

The small size of the groups could be considered a limitation to this study. The researchers did not provide number of cigarettes smoked at the start, end or follow-up periods.  

This study was published in April in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through award to West Virginia Prevention Research Center provided funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 8, 2013
Last Updated:
April 9, 2013