By Christopher Fisher, PhD
Dozens of studies on whether moderate exercise can curb the nicotine cravings of women smokers have added up to an apparent contradiction: it seems to work in short-term, well controlled lab experiments, but then fizzles out in treatment trials. A new study may explain why and help researchers devise a practical therapy.
The explanation suggested in the results of research led by David Williams, an assistant professor of community health at Brown University, is that while exercise does help improve the mood of smokers and curtail their cravings, the effect is short-lived.
“What we found is that although there is no chronic effect of exercise on cigarette cravings and affective withdrawal symptoms, there is an acute effect that diminishes over a period of several hours to 1-2 days, but can be renewed with each bout of exercise,” said Williams, first author of the study published May 11 in the journal Addictive Behaviors. “One implication for these findings is that exercise may be a useful treatment strategy, but it has to be done frequently enough and consistently enough because the effects that it has diminish over time.”