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Exercise can help smokers quit habit

CHICAGO (AP) -- Women who exercise vigorously while trying to quit smoking are twice as likely to kick the habit than wannabe ex-smokers who don't work out regularly, a new study finds.

The report also offers good news to female smokers who fear that giving up tobacco and nicotine will lead to weight gain. Researchers found that women who worked out as they tried to quit gained only about half the weight of those who did not exercise."I can't say that definitively this will help all people, but given all of the other health benefits associated with regular exercise, I would certainly encourage people trying to quit smoking to talk to their physicians about starting a program," said Bess Marcus, an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University and the study's lead author.

The findings appeared in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers at Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., followed 281 healthy but sedentary female smokers who attended a 12-week program to stop smoking. About half of the women participated in supervised workouts three times a week during the program while the others did not.

Of the 134 women in the group who exercised regularly, 19.4 percent kicked the habit for at least two months after their program ended while 10.2 percent of the 147 non-exercisers did the same.

Three months later, the comparison of those still smoke-free was 16.4 percent to 8.2 percent, respectively, and 11.9 percent vs. 5.4 percent a year later. The women ranged between ages 18 and 65 and had smoked routinely for at least a year.

"There seems to be a new drug every day to help you quit smoking," Marcus said in a telephone interview Sunday. "But this study suggests that there's a drug-free alternative to quitting smoking if that's what you prefer."

While the researchers at Miriam Hospital studied only women smokers, men who want to quit should expect similar results, said Dr. Michael Roizen, head of anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine.

"I don't think it (gender) makes any difference," said Roizen, a health and lifestyle modification enthusiast who was not involved in the study. "I think you almost have to do some sort of exercise to be successful at quitting."