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Participation in a population-based physical activity programme as an aid for smoking cessation: a randomised trial


Objectives Exercise combined with nicotine therapy may help smoking cessation and minimise weight gain after quitting. Low participation in vigorous-intensity physical activity programmes precludes their population-wide applicability. In a randomised controlled trial, we tested whether a population-based moderate-intensity physical activity programme increases quit rates among sedentary smokers receiving nicotine therapy.

Methods Participants (n=481; 57% male; mean age, 42.2 years (SD 10.1); mean cigarette consumption, 27 (SD 10.2) per day) were offered a nine-week smoking cessation programme consisting of a weekly 15-minute counselling session and the prescription of nicotine replacement therapy. In addition, participants in the physical activity group (n=229) also took part in a programme of moderate-intensity physical activity implemented at the national level, and offering nine weekly 60-minute sessions of physical activity. To ensure equal contact conditions, participants in the control group (n=252) attended weekly 60-minute health behaviour education sessions unrelated to physical activity. The primary outcome was continuous CO-verified smoking abstinence rates at 1-year follow-up.

Results Continuous smoking abstinence rates were high and similar in the physical activity group and the control group at the end of the intervention (47% versus 46%, p=0.81) and at 1-year follow-up (27% versus 29%, p=0.71). The mean weight gain after one year was 4.4 kg and 6.2 kg among sustained quitters of the physical activity and control groups, respectively (p=0.06).

Conclusion Participation in a population-based moderate-intensity physical activity programme for 9 weeks in addition to a comprehensive smoking cessation programme did not significantly increase smoking cessation rates. A non-significant reduction in weight gain was observed among participants who quit smoking in the physical activity group.

Trial registration; US National Institutes for Health (available online at; Clinical Trial Registration Number: NCT00521391)

  • Smoking cessation
  • exercise
  • prevention
  • risk factors
  • cessation

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