Researchers at the West Virginia University School of Medicine have conducted a study that suggests physical activity can help teens quit smoking.
The study, which will be published in the October issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, aims to figure out how West Virginia teenagers can fight smoking habits.
Dr. Kimberly Horn, the principle investigator of the study, said the main goal of the study was to help kids stop smoking through the incorporation of physical activity.
"There have been studies with adults that show exercising while quitting smoking was more successful," Horn said. "This hadn't been done in kids."
Dr. Jan Palmer, the director of WELLWVU: The Students' Center for Health, believes it is especially important to help teens quit smoking.
"It's a real problem because a lot of young people say ‘I can quit anytime,' but when they try, they find it's not as easy as they thought it would be," he said.
Palmer also believes exercise is not just about burning calories, but also the endorphins and positive attitude that come from it.
"I certainly can see exercise being good for any addiction or bad habit," Palmer said. "It makes people more aware of their health and things they're doing to make themselves less healthy."
To assess this, the scientists studied 233 West Virginian teens who smoke at least half of a pack daily.
Nearly all of the teens involved in the study were considered addicted to smoking.
"Some people wake up in the morning and feel like they need a cigarette to function. That's an addiction," Palmer said.
He believes it's not just the addiction that's harmful.
"The problem with cigarettes is that it's not just the addiction to the nicotine that's harmful, it's all the other effects of the smoke," Palmer said.
Some of the teens used in the study began smoking by age 11. Palmer thinks he knows why.
"Being a teenager is a time of experimentation and growing up," he said. "If it's a banned or discouraged activity, it means teens are more likely to do it."
For the study, teens were randomly selected to take part in two different programs.
The first, called Not-On-Tobacco (N-O-T), included a ten-session lecture series.
The second program, called N-O-T + FIT, included the N-O-T lectures and regular physical fitness activities.
Horn said the lab's main find was that compared to the other programs, N-O-T + FIT resulted in an increased chance of quitting smoking after three and six months.
Control teens, who were not enrolled in either of the programs, were found to be twice as likely to continue smoking as teens in a quitting program.
Males involved in the study were more successful at quitting when enrolled in the N-O-T + FIT program, while females were equally as successful with N-O-T and N-O-T + FIT.
Further studies are expected to be conducted to assess the difference in quitting between male and female smokers.
"We want to see what different types of physical activity are best and how we can make it more successful for girls," Horn said.
Horn and her fellow researchers are looking forward to continuing their studies on quitting smoking.
"We're really encouraged by this study, and we plan to pursue it further," she said.http://www.thedaonline.com/