Can Walking Curb Smoking?

By Ben Feuerherd 04/10/13

A study finds that just 20 minutes of walking a day helps teen smokers cut back.

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A brief daily stroll may be all it takes for teens to cut back on smoking, according to a new study from George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. Researchers found that teen smokers who increased the number of days they were physically active for at least 20 minutes didn't smoke as much as their less active counterparts. The study examined 233 West Virginia high school students who smoked an average of a pack of cigarettes a day. The participants were split into three groups; one group participated in an anti-smoking program and a fitness regiment, another group did the anti-smoking program with no fitness component, and the third group only listened to an anti-smoking lecture. Even though all the students in the study reported some degree of exercise, those who walked or jogged for just 20 minutes, more days a week, showed a significant decrease in smoking. The results lend further proof that exercise, even small amounts, may be effective in helping reduce unhealthy behavioral patterns. “We don’t fully understand the clinical relevance of ramping up daily activity to 20 or 30 minutes a day with these teens," says study author Kimberly Horn, "But we do know that even modest improvements in exercise may have health benefits. Our study supports the idea that encouraging one healthy behavior can serve to promote another, and it shows that teens, often viewed as resistant to behavior change, can tackle two health behaviors at once.”

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Benjamin Feuerherd is a city reporter at the New York Post. He has previously worked for The Daily Beast and NBC. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter