Researchers have found that resistance training, or weight lifting, may help smokers trying to quit. While exercise has been shown to reduce many of the negative experiences that accompany quitting, such as cigarette cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and weight gain, the majority of these studies have focused on women and only on aerobic exercise. This study, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, is the first to examine resistance training as an aid for smoking cessation.

The findings show that male and female smokers who completed a 12-week resistance training regimen as part of a standard smoking cessation treatment program were twice as likely to successfully quit compared to those who did not regularly lift weights.

For the study, the researchers enrolled 25 male and female smokers between the ages of 18 and 65 who reported smoking at least five cigarettes a day for the past year or more. All participants received a 15-20 minute smoking cessation counseling session as well as an 8-week supply of the nicotine patch before being randomized into two groups.

The resistance training group participated in two, 60-minute training sessions per week for 12 weeks. The full-body routine involved 10 exercises, with researchers gradually increasing weight and intensity every 3 weeks. Participants in the control group watched a brief health and wellness video twice a week.

At the end of 12 weeks, 16% of smokers in the resistance training group not only quit smoking, but they also decreased their body weight and body fat. In comparison, 8% of individuals in the control group had quit smoking, yet they increased their body weight and fat.

The effect appears to be long-lasting, according to the researchers. Three months after the study was completed, 15% of those in the resistance training group had successfully maintained their quit attempt compared to 8% of the control group.

Source: The Miriam Hospital