Making the Case: The Connection
Between Physical Activity And Tobacco Use
Physical activity and tobacco use prevention
Young women at risk for both tobacco use and inactivity share
many features, and the literature demonstrates a significant association
between inactivity and smoking initiation. For instance, low self-esteem
and weight concerns are strong predictors of smoking initiation
in young women, factors which are also associated with inactivity.
Studies demonstrate that self-esteem impacts specific factors
such as confidence, perceived control and anxiety, which in turn
influence participation in physical activity and smoking initiation.
Due to the highly varied risk factors for youth smoking and physical
inactivity, individualized programming tends to be the most successful
Physical activity and tobacco cessation
Recent evidence suggests that physical activity ought to be an
integral part of tobacco cessation interventions and programs. Various
studies report significant differences in tobacco abstinence between
groups of physically active and inactive subjects, including significant
differences at a 12-month follow-up.
Physical activity tones down many of the physical and psychological
symptoms brought on by nicotine withdrawal. Brisk physical activity
reduces cravings and difficulties in falling asleep during the first
week after quitting. One study demonstrated the moderating effect
of physical activity on mood disturbances brought on by tobacco
cessation—more specifically, on anxiety, tension, and stress
in the first week of abstinence, on irritability in the second week,
and on restlessness in the third week. In another study, physically
active abstainers showed an increase in positive feelings and a
decrease in depression four months after quitting, while inactive
abstainers showed an increase in negative affect.
Literature consistently identifies physical activity as an effective
and healthy weight management strategy. Weight management is a major
concern for women as they contemplate quitting, as well as a key
element in their decision to act, and a strong risk
factor for relapse. Tobacco cessation programs should aim to reduce
weight concerns and assist women in wisely estimating possible weight
gain. As well, interventions should draw attention to the various
issues related to healthy body weight, such as pressure to be thin,
muscle mass and percentage of body fat.
In the context of tobacco cessation, physical activity also presents
a range of advantages. By increasing self-esteem and coping abilities,
physical activity significantly facilitates quitting efforts. People
who are physically active as they quit smoking appear to have greater
confidence in their abilities to maintain a smoke-free lifestyle.
Physical activity also offsets the devastating short- and long-term
health effects of smoking.
One study revealed that young adults show favorable attitudes
towards physical activity as a strategy to support tobacco cessation.
In this study, young adults reported that physical activity actually
exposed them to the negative effects of smoking by accentuating
them, which in turn motivated the young adults to quit. Young adults
showed much enthusiasm and consideration for this strategy, and
a strong majority believed that the promotion of smoking cessation
programs should take place within a physical activity environment.