Positive Attitude Toward Exercise Can Help Deter Teen Smoking

Positive Attitude Toward Exercise Can Help Deter Teen Smoking

Positive Attitude Toward Exercise Can Help Deter Teen Smoking

Positive Attitude Toward Exercise Can Help Deter Teen SmokingDoctors and public health officials know that smokers who participate in regular physical activity increase their chances of reducing their cigarette intake or quitting smoking altogether. However, they don’t really have a good understanding of the underlying factors that affect the usefulness of exercise as a smoking deterrent. In a study published in October 2013 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania sought to determine whether positive or negative attitudes toward participation in physical activity affect the smoking-related benefits of this activity in teenagers.

Physical Activity Basics

Physical activity is the general term used to describe any form of activity that makes you use your body and expend energy. When physical activity takes place in an organized, pre-arranged format designed to improve your health, it’s commonly referred to as exercise. Examples of physical activities not typically considered as exercise include gardening and other physical pursuits that have a main purpose separate from the improvement of health and physical well-being. Examples of exercise include aerobic activities designed to accelerate your heart and breathing rates, conditioning activities designed to increase your muscle mass, and stretching activities designed to increase your flexibility.

Smoking-Related Benefits of Activity

Smoking has damaging effects on physical well-being that include reduced endurance resulting from diminished lung performance, an increased baseline heart rate, an increased workload on the heart during activity or exercise, declines in muscle strength, fatigue resulting from disrupted sleep patterns, increased risks for injury, slower healing in the aftermath of injury and an overall reduction in the benefits gained from participation in exercise or physical activity. Conversely, smokers who get regular exercise often have an easier time reducing or discontinuing their intake of nicotine-containing tobacco.

For example, in a study published in 2011 in the journal Pediatrics, researchers from three U.S. institutions evaluated the impact of regular exercise participation on smoking cessation efforts among a group of 233 high school students between the ages of 14 and 19. These researchers found that teenagers who combine their efforts to quit smoking with exercise successfully halt tobacco use roughly three times as often as their tobacco-using peers who don’t exercise and only receive limited forms of counseling designed to support smoking cessation. Exercising teens trying to quit smoking also succeed substantially more often than their peers who don’t exercise but participate in more rigorous anti-smoking programs that have proven cessation benefits.

The Impact of Attitude

In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the University of Pennsylvania researchers looked at the exercise-related attitudes of 1,374 teenagers who took part in a four-year project designed to improve understanding of the adolescent behaviors that increase and diminish health and well-being. Each of the teens participating in the project submitted reports every six months that detailed (among other things) their outlook on participation in physical activity or exercise. Specifically, the researchers wanted to know if teenagers who enjoy exercise/activity and view their participation as rewarding start smoking more or less often than teens who don’t view exercise/activity as an enjoyable, rewarding experience. They also wanted to know if tobacco-using teenagers who enjoy physical activity or exercise smoke less than tobacco-using teens who don’t enjoy exercise or activity.

After reviewing their findings, the researchers concluded that adolescents who see physical activity and exercise as rewarding or pleasurable start smoking significantly less often than their peers who don’t derive reward or pleasure from exercise and physical activity. They also concluded that, among adolescents who already smoke, those individuals who enjoy exercise and activity use tobacco significantly less often than their peers who don’t like to participate in physically demanding activities. The researchers did not establish a direct link between attitudes toward exercise/activity and smoking risks. Instead, they established an indirect link that depends on the additional influences of other factors.


The authors of the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence believe that they are the first researchers to identify a positive attitude toward exercise and physical activity as a deterrent to the onset of smoking among teenagers. In line with their findings, they also believe that public health efforts that emphasize both activity/exercise participation and activity/exercise enjoyment may prove vital to reducing both the onset of teen smoking and teens’ increasing participation in tobacco use over time.

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