Still haven’t quit smoking? Time to go for a run, according to new study

If you’re a smoker trying to kick their nicotine habit, then a good jog with friends may be what you need. According to researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC), becoming part of a running group can help you get off your addiction to smoking. They came to this conclusion following the promising results of the 2016 Run to Quit program, itself the result of a partnership between the Canadian Cancer Society and Running Room Inc.

About 168 smokers from all corners of Canada registered for the 10-week program. Every week, the participants divided their time among running, cessation techniques, as well as an outdoor walking or running component that gradually progressed into a five-kilometer run. One-on-one phone counseling with the National Quit Smoking Line was also readily available throughout the duration of the program.

There were 72 participants that saw the program through to the end, and 37 of them (or 50.8 percent of the remaining participants) claimed to have quit for good. Carbon monoxide testing confirmed their claims, which held up six months later during the follow-up interviews. Of the total number of participants, 90.8 percent of them managed to reduce smoking by a good margin. Furthermore, their average carbon monoxide levels shrunk by nearly a third, while their mental health showed notable improvements.

“Even if someone wasn’t able to fully quit, reducing their smoking is great,” said Carly Priebe, lead author of the study. “But it’s also about just being active. Most of our sample was new to running, and if it’s something that can become part of their lifestyle then there are health benefits that may counteract some of their smoking behaviors.” (Related: Study finds running for just 5 minutes daily increases longevity, has several health benefits.)

Priebe added: “This shows that physical activity can be a successful smoking-cessation aid and that a community-based program might offer that. Because doing it on your own is very difficult.”

The effects of physical activity on smoking

Quitting smoking is not an easy thing to do; kicking the habit for good will often require multiple attempts that combine smoking cessation medication with counseling. Yet as the study has demonstrated, regular physical activity is one good way to go about weaning yourself off your addiction to nicotine or tobacco.

This is because physical activity can greatly reduce your urge to smoke by keeping you busy until the desire passes. The cravings for cigarettes and withdrawal symptoms were also shown to decrease in the middle of exercise, and even 50 minutes after.

In addition to limiting the weight gain that tends to come with continued and prolonged smoking, exercise has other benefits as well. These include boosting your mood, helping you cope with stress better, increasing your energy levels, and decreasing your appetite.

How to get started

Even if you can’t join a program similar to Run to Quit, there are still some steps you can take to make exercise a part of your daily routine:

  • Find the time that works for you. You could be raring to go in the mornings before work, or afterwards when there are less people around. Whichever hour you feel is the best, allot your exercise to that hour.
  • While 30 minutes of moderate physical activity for most days of the week is the ideal, this isn’t feasible for a lot of people. Get around this by splitting up those 30 minutes into 10-minute sessions.
  • Don’t jump into difficult exercise right off the bat, especially if you’re unsure that you can do it. Opt for exercise that you know you can do and start slow. Work your way up to increased exercise frequency and intensity.

Go to for more tips to help you get clean.

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