MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A study by researchers at the West Virginia University School of Medicine shows that adding physical activity to tobacco cessation programs for teens may enhance cessation success. The study will be published in the October issue of “Pediatrics.”

“It is no secret that West Virginia has one of the nation’s worst smoking problems. In fact, a recent published report stated that West Virginia is among the seven states where people can’t quit,” Kimberly Horn, Ed.D., professor in the Department of Community Medicine, said. “To the contrary, this study shows that West Virginia youth can quit smoking given the right tools. We simply need to get these tools in the community so that teen smokers can readily access them.”

The 233 teens in this study were regular daily smokers, smoking about half of a pack a day during the week and up to a pack on weekends, and they were addicted. Most started smoking around age 11. Randomly selected West Virginia high schools with more than 300 students were assigned to brief intervention programs, teen-cessation program Not on Tobacco (N-O-T) or N-O-T plus physical activity (N-O-T + FIT). N-O-T was developed at WVU by Dr. Horn and Geri Dino, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Community Medicine.

Researchers found that those who received the N-O-T program + FIT maintained a greater chance of quitting smoking at 3 months and 6 months from the start of the program. Overall, youth in the control group were two times more likely to continue smoking.
“However, the boosted effect for boys was remarkable: adding the physical activity intervention to N-O-T decreased the risk of continued smoking fourfold for boys. Overall, girls quit more successfully with N-O-T with or without physical activity compared with brief intervention,” Horn said. “Depending on how we looked at the quit rates, the physical activity module did not seem to directly help girls stop smoking, which is especially puzzling to us since our preliminary analysis for a forthcoming paper showed that those girls actually increased in physical activity.”

Horn believes more studies need to be done to determine exactly what types of physical activity differentially influence male and female teen smokers.

“Generally, we know that teenage boys engage in more vigorous exercise than girls and are often more confident in their ability to be physically active. The teenage years are also a time when girls’ activity levels drop,” she said. “Additional exploration of our data will help us to determine if the intensity of exercise, for example, is strongly related to successful quitting. It is also possible that confidence plays a role. We know that teen smokers are often highly sedentary. Girls in our program perhaps had stronger fitness barriers to overcome than did boys.”

The study shows that it may be possible to successfully intervene with two health behaviors simultaneously.  Findings suggest that a small amount of time devoted to motivating teens toward increased physical activity, in the context of smoking cessation, may have high pay off in terms of health and health economics, Horn said. This is particularly important in West Virginia where smoking and sedentary lifestyle often go hand in hand.

In addition to Horn and Dino, WVU co-authors on the study include: Jianjun Zhang, M.A., N. Noerachmanto, Ph.D., Traci Jarrett, M.P.H., and Melissa Taylor, M.A. Steven A. Branstetter, Ph.D., from Pennsylvania State University, is also a co-author.

Information about the study, “Effects of Physical Activity on Teen Smoking Cessation,” is available online at It will appear in the October print edition of “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For more information: Angela Jones, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
asj: 09-16-11