For pregnant women who want to quit smoking, a brisk walk can temporarily stave off tobacco cravings, says a Canadian study.
Previous research has shown that exercise can interrupt nicotine cravings for both men and women. Whether the same was true for expecting mothers was unclear because pregnant women have increased metabolism, which can intensify longings for a cigarette, the researchers write in the journal Addictive Behaviors.
“This was the first time we have been able to replicate the findings with pregnant smokers,” said Harry Prapavessis, director of the Exercise and Health Psychology Laboratory at Western University in Ontario, Canada, led the research.
According to his team’s results, 15 to 20 minutes of walking at a mild to moderate pace is sufficient to ward off cravings.
For the study, researchers recruited 30 pregnant women in their second trimester in Canada and England. All of the women smoked more than five cigarettes a day and were not regular exercisers.
Half of the women were assigned to walk on a treadmill and the rest to watch a home gardening video for 20 minutes. Both groups did not smoke for between 15 and 19 hours before entering the lab.
The walkers reported an average 30 percent reduction in the desire to smoke based on a seven-point scale. But the cravings returned. Thirty minutes after exercising, the same group of women reported only a 17 percent craving reduction.
The exercising women also reported less irritability, restlessness, tension and other withdrawal symptoms. But because of the study’s small size, those results could have happened by chance.
“This translates not as a cure for quitting, but it can be part of a strategy,” said Dr. Sharon Phelan, who was not involved in the study.