Exercise: The New Quit-Smoking Prescription

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you're resolving to give up cigarettes and get active in 2009, you're in luck. Combining these two goals could actually increase your chances of success. Research shows that ex-smokers who start an exercise program after they quit are more likely to kick the habit for good, according to the January/February 2009 issue of Women's Health magazine. How so?

According to the article, which cites a study published in the journal Preventive Medicine,

"Those who received counseling sessions that encouraged physical activity increased the number of steps they walked by 16 percent, while ex-puffers who got nothing walked less. At the end of the study, those in the active group were 84 percent more likely to be smoke-free. Why? Exercise reinforces your commitment to a healthy lifestyle and might help battle withdrawal-related fatigue and sleep problems, explains lead author Jodi Prochaska, Ph.D., M.P.H." (Emphasis added.)

Quitting smoking can be tough, but replacing smoking with a healthier habit can help increase your chances of success. Exercise surely fits the bill of a healthy, distracting, and beneficial habit. It boosts mood, combats depression, improves sleep, reduces stress and improves lung function, to name a few. If you get a craving for a cigarette, you just might bust it by taking a short stroll outside or doing a set of pushups in your office, for example. Your lungs and your muscles will thank you!

For more quit-smoking ideas for the new year, check out the article "Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight" from Women's Health.

Has exercise helped you (or someone you know) kick the habit? Do you have any other quit-smoking ideas to share with others?

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ARMY_MOM17 5/31/2018
...quit when my baby son came home crying and very distraught after having been an assembly on the ill's of smoking...he was 8 or 9...promised him i would never smoke again(d**n school)!...quit cold turkey and never smoked anything again...he is now 22!!!...PS I don't miss it!... Report
REDROBIN47 5/31/2018
I quit smoking 11 years ago, just before I learned I had cancer. Report
I quit more or less cold turkey years ago (when a pack of fags was still 2.35!) in 1988. All I did was smoke lower and lower brands (player's light to players extra light and then eventually to Craven A ultra light (like smoking warm AIR!!)) I am glad I quit as its a disgusting habit even though the odd time I feel a craving. I really cannot stand second hand smoke. YUCK
I believe in everything that has been said here. My Dad is my proof. Asked me to help him quit smoking and I said, do some exercise and engage yourself with fitness lifestyle. He followed what I said and now he is a smoke-free man and I am a proud daughter! Report
I can testify to this article. I quit smoking 15 years ago when I was pregnant, and knew I did not want to start up again to "help me lose the baby fat" as I did before. I made sure that I walked every day regardless of the weather. I drank water from a straw, and chewed it to death! I chewed gum, especially bubble gum for blowing bubbles. I used a journal to record my feelings as well as how much money I did not spend that day on cigarettes. I did Yoga programs at home and attended meetings at a hospital 25 miles away. I ended up being in the best shape of my life! I had a strong motivation to stay off of the cigarettes which kept me active, and now that the craving is virtually gone I have found Sparkpeople to help with the motivation issue. Best luck to anyone quitting~It is SO WORTH IT! Report
I just saw this article but I'm glad I did. I recently quit smoking cold turkey (almost 2 months ago). What's helping me stay smoke free is exercising and overall, trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Most importantly, I wanted to quit so that made my commitment to staying smoke-free even stronger. Report
If a person doesn't WANT to quit smoking, they won't .. it's as simple as that. These types of articles provide great tidbits of info to help the smoker become a non smoker... but really, if you want to quit badly enough, you will.

I always quit because I felt like i "should" -- and I always fell off the non smoking wagon. Only when I was actually ready - when I really wanted to - is when I did. And I've been smoke free ever since... and yes, the benefits are incredible and I've never felt more healthy... and I want to run around and wave a magic "non-smoking" wand over those who still do.. just so they could feel the same sense of freedom.

Until then, I'm going to continue loving every second of my workouts - because now, my body/heart/lungs can keep up with my desire. Report
I recently quit smoking. April 11th will make 2 months of no smoking.
I quit with the help of Chantix and found it was very helpful for me for the 'quitting' part, but not so much with the cravings part. My main goal behind quitting smoking was to make it easier to exercise, so whenever I want to smoke I think about how hard it was to get through spin class 3 times a week when I was smoking 2 packs a day and I think 'no thanks!'
I get the endorphin rush in other ways now, and while I think I miss smoking, I don't really miss smoking. I just miss having something to do when I was bored or needed a bit of stress relief.
I have just celebrated my one year anniversary of quitting smoking. It was a year on the 5th of March. Exercise has helped me when the cravings have hit or when I have been stressed to the max. The only other pearl of wisdom that I can offer others who are trying to quit is to take it five minutes at a time. If you can make it through five more minutes then you can make it through another five. Soon those five minutes add up to one day and then two and sooner or later a year. Report
I have to admit, exercising definitely helps me not to go back to smoking. Report
I quit smoking on April Fool's Day 2009. I'd been smoking for 30+ years and I finally did it. I did gain weight, but I'm here now and losing that weight. As a matter of fact, I'm 3 pounds away from where I was before quiting. I've made lots of changes in my life, and am proud of those changes. I'm rarely around people who smoke, and because of Sparkpeople I'm changing my lifestyle. Exercise really does help with the cravings. Report
This is a really old blog, but it is very true. Exercise releases the dopamine that we were previously getting from cigarettes....what a great high without the noxious chemicals. I'm 6 months and 11 days clean from nicotine addiction. Walking everyday and happy to have my lungs back. I never think of a cigarette except for how stupid I was to smoke for so long. Any smokers out there- truly, it is a LOT easier than your addicted brain tells you it is. Report
My dad died in 2006 from cigarette related illness. He struggled to quit for many years and suceeded but too late. Exercise is a great tool for distracting yourself from nicotine craving. If you time a crave you will see that they do not last more than ONE minute, surprising but true. Nicotine withdrawal alters your perception of time so it seems much longer. The best support is at Whyquit.com. It explains that smoking is not a habit, it is an addiction. Education is key to success. Good luck you can do it!! Report
I was one of those smokers who could not and would not be told I had to quit smoking. I enjoyed it. It was the only vice I had. My husband had quit 6 years earlier and had gained 60 pounds. I had every excuse in the book, and some I wrote on my own. Then I got sick. Not just a little sick, but 4 months of upper respiratory infections, bronchitus, pneumonia, and sinus infections. I am allergic to antibiotics so this was no easy thing to get over. My doctor told me "you know the only way to get rid of this is" and he left it at that. I asked for a prescription of Chantix, got it that week and set my quit date.

I am happy to report I quit on June 1, 2008 and have never looked back. I was extremely careful to not gain weight. I ate fresh fruits whenever I had a craving for "something". I gained a total of 6 pounds and then found Sparkpeople. To date my husband has lost 65 pounds and I have lost 30. I have 35 more to go, but with the help of Sparkpeople I know I will get there.

P.S. I don't stink anymore from the cigarettes! ( And yes they do make you stink.)
Good luck! Report
I smoke and at the present time I really don't have any desires to quit--I know that sounds crazy, but in all honesty, I do enjoy the relaxation of smoking. Most people won't admit to it--but I will,, I do enjoy my smoking and coffee!!!!!!! Report
I would have to agree with this study. I have tried to quit in the past (even with Chantix) and have been unsuccesful. This time everytime I think about it, I am repulsed that I would ruin my new healthy self. I am focused on diet, exercise and overall health. It really makes a difference. I used to think "one vice at a time", but I will have to say doing it all at once seems easier. Who would have thought? Report
I quit smoking about 4 months ago while just starting on this site. Still smoke free and pick on my customer that now I'm a refoemed smoker so I can pick on them about smoking. Report
I quit smoking July 23, 2008, after smoking 17yrs, by reading "The Easy Way to Quit Smoking". Sounds crazy, but it worked for me and some people I know. In any case I started exercising nightly to replace tje void if you will and I was able to quit and havent looked back! Report
I started exercising a couple months before I quit. After I quit, I was able to do so much more. My 10 minute sessions turned into 30 minutes, then an hour. I feel there's no stopping me now! Report
It seems that all you hear is stories of people that wanted and tried to quit but couldn't kick it.
I quit 2 years ago. ME, one who always preached that I would never quit. My friends and I agreed we would quit by the time we were 25 years old, so I prepared myself, I visualized it for months and months. As my 25th birthday approached I began to get nervous. And I realized I had to make up my mind. I was either going to do this or not, but it was all on me to make that decision. I made a commitment to myself that this would the only time I quit.

My last cigarette was 3 days before my birthday! And now 2 years later I could not be more happy or proud of myself. For me, I had to do it cold turkey and I just had to make up my mind to commit to it. Everytime I wanted one, I just took in a few deep breathes, acknowledged that I was craving a cigarette and that it would pass, and remembered that everyday that went by would get easier and easier. I took it one craving at a time, and often found something else to distract me. Exercise was not a big part of my life at this time, but it would be a VERY effective distraction during those cravings.

For those of you thinking or trying to quit, repeat after me: "I am strong enough, I can do this, and I WILL prove it to myself and the world" Report
I quit smoking on June 2nd with the help of Chantix. I started exercising with sparks in July and I have not gained a lb from quitting. I have as of today lost 23 lbs. Now that's a great quit smoking program! Report
I'm gonna be quitting in 2 weeks! I am doing the new you bootcamp. I'll be a happier and healthier 34 year old. Report
Every time I try to quit smoking I end up gaining weight. I think saratonin is triggered by both cigarrettes and eating. It makes sense that substituting exercise in the place of both cigs and eating might work, because there are studies saying that physical exercise also triggers mind or mood altering neuro chemicals, like saratonin, in the brain too just like eating and smoking do.

But the study mentioned isnt a very good source of proof, one had counseling and one didnt. The fact the counseled ones did better is a no brainer...the fact that they were encouranged to walk may tilt the scale too but its not proof. Report
This is exactly how I quit! I decided Jan. 1, 2007 I was done smoking and everytime I wanted to light up I got on my treadmill and walked until the urge passed. I am pleased to say I have been smoke free for 2 years now. Good luck to all of you that are quiting I found it to be one of the hardest things I've ever done but one of the best things all at the same time. Report
I believe this is also true ... I have set my quit date for Jan. 5 ... wanted to get a good diet going and make sure I had some support while making this important change in my life, I was so glad when I found this site. I have my fingers and toes crossed and I am determand that I will lose the weight that I have gained and stop the nasty smoking habit that I have picked up about 30 years ago :o) Report
Yes, absolutely true. After smoking for 35 years I gave it up in Sept of 2006. It was very tough, but I utilized trytostop.com and it was very helpful. Also the patch and wellbutrin. So, don't hesitate to have help. Also, exercise was a great distraction for me, not to mention a change in my routines. When the cravings were hitting, I would take my puppy outside and play some serious catch with him. It was fun, so that it took my mind off of wanting that cigarette, and I was getting a lot of exercise that I would not have gotten before, because I did this A LOT!! I feel great now and will never return to being a smoker. Report
Take advantage of the telephone quitline in your state [1-800-QUIT-NOW]. It is a series of counseling sessions over the telephone scheduled at your convenience. Quitline + pharmacotherapy is the most effective way to quit. And if you slip, remember that quitting, like losing weight, takes practice. Report
I began using Chantix 3 weeks before my quit date. My quit date was VERY important to me, it was my moms b-day. She died 9 months ago from all kinds of complications from smoking and diabetes. I watched her sufficate for 25 days, it was horrible...the oxygen she received didn't matter at that point --- she made me promise to quit....I knew I wasn't ready then---but in the front of my mind, I thought about seriously quitting everyday. Since I quit, I have had many stressful times...I chew gum, fidget, clean-anything but smoke....A 30-year habit is hard to kick but I keep telling myself that the beast isn't going to control my life anymore! I've put on weight but my doctor says its the lesser evil. Hopefully SP will motivate me to a healthier 2009! Report
I quit smoking almost 3 years ago and let me tell you the best thing I could do for me was to quit. It did not happen over night and just like with any new routine it took time to develope that routine, but now I can say that I can't even stand the smell of it on anyone or near anyone who reaks of it and I now know what I used to smell like.
I gained a lot of weight from my many attempts to quit but now I am starting to loose that wieght... 25 lbs in 2008 and I am reaching to loose another 25 lbs in 2009 - but ONE pound at a time, yup just one, I never reached my goal in 2008 of 50 lbs but then I realised that just like I had to take time to get ready to quit, I needed time to also get ready to loose ...so I am ok with that ... and I am more active now then when I used to smoke !! Just my 2 cents worth, thanks for reading, Lindie Report
My mother was a smoker and died from a heart attack when I was 17. I am NOW older than she was when she died, as I turned 59. I realize how "young" she was and I'm so happy that as a child I vowed to NEVER smoke and be addicted to anything in my life. None of my five children, nor my husband smoke, and that is because I've always refused to be around smokers. Report
About 3 months ago I decided that I didn't want to smoke anymore and I made the decision that 12-31-08 would be my last day as a SMOKER. I've spent the past 3 months preparing myself mentally, emotionally and spiritually for the FACT that on January 1, 2009, I would NO LONGER BE A SMOKER! I'm not quitting -- I am no longer a person who smokes cigarettes. I'm treating this just as I did my drug addiction (I'm clean/sober now 3 years, 6 months)...I have a "sponsor" who I can call if I get any cravings (so far that hasn't been an issue today), and I'm giving my cigarette addiction to my higher power. Now that I've read the article on exercise, I plan to walk around the park across the street, at least one lap every day. Thank you SP. Report
I quit smoking in one day as I told myself that since I tasted like an ashtray to my hubby, that I would lick an ashtray clean before having another smoke ... just to see what I tasted like.
I have yet to smoke again ... it has been years! Report
I am happy to say that I quit smoking in 1971--back when they were still 50 cents a pack and $3.00 a carton...! I tried several times before that but failed. This time I had a better reason for quitting...I was doing some deep Bible Study and read a passage that talked about Quit touching the unclean thing". I also decided that if I was praying for a healthy and happy life, then I needed to make sure that I put away any unclean and unhealthy lifestyle that I was living. So, I prayed for help to quit smoking--I threw my last pack away, and within just a few weeks I felt smoke free..and I did not have any trouble stopping like so many do or like I did before...Thank God for that...Now 37 years later, I get ill when I am around cigarette smoke. Report
I quit using the laser therapy also. I am nearing my 4 year anniversary and am proud of myself. I smoked a pack and a half for 35 years. The laser was easy, quick (3 days for me) and best of all NO drugs or pain and it cost less than the drugs & patches and gets the nicotine out of your system in a couple of days. www.annepenman.com Report
I have been an avid walker most of my life. My neighbourhood is surrounded by very steep hills, and I found they were becoming more of a challenge the longer I smoked. I noticed a difference to my breathing right from the first day of quitting. I won't say it was easy, but the rewards are great. I made a point of walking more during those first few months, and now I walk almost daily....usually at least 4 miles. It took me a couple of attempts to totally give it the boot...my husband is a smoker. I kept a record of my walking and other exercise, and was quite pleased at the visual reminder of my gift to self.
I have now been smoke free for 20+ years!!!
Good luck!! Report
It worked for me! I quit smoking and lost 75lbs in the process! I did use the nicotine gum as well though too. But exercise made it possible as it gave me something else to focus on. Report
I'm coming up on my 8 year anniversary of quitting smoking. I gained a bunch of weight when I quit and am still trying to lose it. All I can say is if you do gain a little weight it is still better than the very unhealthy habit of smoking. Report
I was able to quit smoking by decreasing the number of smokes each day and also started a small vegetable garden that seems to get bigger each day . This also allowed me to eat healthier I freeze my vegetables so no added salt that helped lower my blood pressure and lower my food bill especially in the winter. I am loosing the pounds slowly but my doctor said I am more likely to keep it off . Report
I have tried to quit smoking using everything on the market. Last year I tried Chantix, I did quit for a month but ended up having severe anxiety attacks and my Dr. advised that I quit taking it. I am now fearful of trying to quit again because of the depression and anxiety that I experienced while using the Chantix. I am trying to get up the nerve to try again by cutting down and using Commit lozenges, they seem to work the best for me in the past. Report
My quit date was October 1, 2008 and so far I've had no desire for a cigarette. I was on Chantix for about two months but still have a prescription for four more refills if I have a relapse. To all who are struggling...KEEP TRYING!! As my doctor said, better to quit the smoking and not worry too much about the weight gain; you can always lose the weight! Report
I can testify that the combination of exercise and quit-smoking definitely works!
I quit 16 years ago, when I first joined a gym.
And although I have been on and off exercise since then, I was never tempted to smoke again.
I made a New years resolution and stuck to it and quit date was january 1st 2000. I relied on the Nocorette CQ patches. It totally took the craving away. i never wanted a cigarette again. But... I would not recommend it as It was the beginning of my high blood pressure and my Rapid heart rate. I have since been able to lower the heart rate with good cardio exercise. I did exercise after quitting. Now is a great time to quit or begin to cut back.
I commented earlier - I just wanted to add something I came across that I still have on my fridge, even after nine years (tomorrow!) of quitting smoking - it really did help me, and hopefully, someone else will get some help from it, too! Good luck to all of you - believe me, it'll be the best thing you can ever do for your health - yes, even better than losing weight! It's ALL good!

Changes Your Body goes through: When You Quit Smoking
Within 20 minutes of last cigarette:
Blood pressure drops
Pulse rate drops
Within 8 hours:
Oxygen level in the blood increases
After 24 hours:
Chance of heart attack decreases
After 48 hours:
Nerve endings start regrowing
Ability to smell and taste is enhanced
After 72 hours:
Bronchial tubes relax, making breathing easier
After quitting 2 weeks to 3 months:
Circulation improves
Lung function increases up to 30%
Walking becomes easier
After 1 to 9 months:
Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, shortness of breath decrease
Cilia regain normal function in lungs, increasing ability to handle mucus, clean
the lungs, and reduce infection
After quitting for 1 year:
Excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smokers
After quitting for5 years:
Stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smokers 5-15 years after quitting
After quitting for 10 years:
Lung cancer death rate about half that of a continuing smokers
Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidneys, and
pancreas decreases
After quitting for15 years:
Risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmokers
Eileen Crossey Source: American Cancer Society Report
I quit in 2008 and found SP shortly after. I feel so much better and hope this is the final quit for myself!! Exercise and being healthy is my new addiction. Great article! Report
I started 2008 as a 'quitter' -- but started smoking again when my job changed in May. I started cutting down (down to two packs a week right now). My quit date is 1/9/09. Time to regroup my fitness strategy. Thanks for the timely article. Report
Still smokin after 34 years and hating every minute of it. I have lost 26 pounds since August and I am exercising every day. I am afraid if I quit I wil gain back the weight I lost. Any helpful suggestions? Report
its been 12 almost 13 years since I quit......and it was by far the best thing I have ever done for ME .....and ultimately my family. My daughter quit not long after....

I have no idea where all the saved money went.....but I am sooooo glad I quit.

My prompt was my mother and father both dying from lung cancer - both were life long smokers... Report
I got smart and quit cold turkey, over 4 year now. Report
I never took up the habit, for which I am thankful, but I have seen dear friends die of cancer and it is not a pretty sight! Report
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