Exercise benefits boys in anti-smoking program

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Adding exercise improved the results of a smoking cessation program among teen boys according to a CDC funded study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.  Teen girls in the program were more successful without the exercise, the study found.

“In the context of a smoking cessation program, the study suggests that a relatively small amount of time dedicated to motivating youth to increase their physical activity may have high payoff in terms of health and health economics,” said study author Kim Horn, Ed.D of  West Virginia University.

Most adult smokers pick up the habit before age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers at the university studied 233 students from 19 state high schools.  The teens had all smoked more than one cigarette within the previous month.  96% of the participants smoked daily.

The 14 to 19 year olds were randomly divided into three groups.  One was given a brief 15 minute intervention, which consisted of general instruction on the reasons why it’s important to quit smoking.

The second group was assigned N-O-T (Not On Tobacco), a smoking cessation program from the American Lung Association that’s been successful. It consists of 10 one hour-long sessions. Participants are given information on the consequences of smoking but also focus on developing coping skills needed to quit.  They also discuss peer pressure and controlling weight after stopping.

The third group combined the N-O-T program with physical activity. During each session, the teens were given guidance about activity, pedometers, a log and journals with options for exercise.

After the teens had been enrolled in the program for three months, they were asked if they had smoked a cigarette within the past seven days.

“We found that the physical activity added to the N-O-T program just really boosted the effect for boys,” said Horn.   Of the 107 boys studied, the ones in that group were four times more likely to stop smoking than the ones in the other two groups.

Horn said she was surprised the results were not the same for girls; they quit more successfully on N-O-T alone. The reasons are not understood.

“It’s very difficult to speculate- certainly we need a further study to understand what intervention parts were effective for males and females,” she said.

Overall, those in the brief intervention group were at nearly three times higher risk of continued smoking, compared to the teens in a program.

Horn, who is a co-founder of the N-O-T program, cautions against generalizing the findings though, as the study only included youths from West Virginia.

“But if this type of intervention is effective for a high-risk group as we see here with our high smoking rates and our low physical activity rates, then there is certainly some hope that this will be effective for other kids who may not be as high-risk,” she said.

She added that the study shows that kids can quit smoking, given the correct tools.

“We simply need to make sure that those tools get out into the community so that kids can get to them.” (CNN)

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