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Study: Weight lifting may help smokers quit

Smokers may have another tool to use in the battle to stop puffing: resistance training.

A pilot study found that men and women who did several weeks of strength training had better quit rates than those who watched health and wellness videos.

Researchers tracked the progress of 25 male and female smokers, all of whom received nicotine patches and a counseling session on how to stop smoking. They were then randomly split into two groups -- one did three months of resistance training, and the other watched twice-weekly videos on health-related topics. The latter served as a control group.

The strength training group worked out twice a week for an hour, doing a full-body routine. Sets and weights increased as the participants got stronger.

After 12 weeks, 16 percent of people in the resistance training group had quit, compared with 8 percent in the control group. The exercise paid off in other ways -- those who worked out also lost a little over a pound on average, while the controls gained about the same amount of weight. The workout group also decreased body fat on average by 0.5 percent, while those in the control group increased their body fat by an average of 0.6 percent. The authors noted that these results show that a resistance training program could not only aid efforts to quit cigarettes, but also halt weight gain and help maintain muscle mass.

The results seemed to last. Three months after the study ended, 15 percent of participants in the resistance training group and 8 percent in the control group were still on the quit list.

Although the authors emphasized that this was a small study, lead author Joseph Ciccolo called the results "promising" in a news release. The authors also noted that other studies on the effect of exercise on smoking cessation have primarily focused on aerobic training and had mostly women as participants.

"While the large majority of smokers want to quit, less than 5 percent are able to do it without help," added Ciccolo, an exercise psychologist, researcher and physiologist with the Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine in Providence, R.I. "We need any new tools that can help smokers successfully quit, and it appears resistance training could potentially be an effective strategy."

The study appears in the August issue of the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

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