Cochrane LibraryExerciseSmoking Cessation

The role of exercise in smoking cessation

A literature review by Dr. Guy Faulkner from the University of Toronto reveals that adding exercise to standard care (counseling and/or nicotine replacement therapy) increases short-term smoking abstinence.

Unfortunately, the evidence is not good for long-term abstinence. A Cochrane review concluded, “only one of 11 trials offered evidence for exercise aiding smoking cessation at a 12-month follow up.”

But wait, there’s more.

  • Low-moderate exercise reduces symptoms of smoking withdrawal and cravings
  • Just five minutes of moderate exercise results in more relief from cigarette cravings (both during and after physical activity sessions) than light or no physical activity
  • Exercise lessens cravings triggered by cues such as a lit cigarette

What to do?

Here are Dr. Faulkner’s recommendations, based on the published evidence and interviews with experts.

  • Start an exercise program two to four weeks before quitting smoking
  • Make exercise an integral part of smoking cessation treatment
  • The exercise program should be structured
  • Supervised exercise (get a partner or trainer) leads to better adherence and early success

It’s not easy to stop smoking. Hopefully, this information will help. Good luck.

8/20/06 12:00 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.