The effects of acute exercise on tobacco cravings and withdrawal symptoms in temporary abstinent pregnant smokers



Prapavessis H, De Jesus S, Harper T, Cramp A, Fitzgeorge L, Mottola MF, Ussher M, Faulkner G & Selby P (2014) The effects of acute exercise on tobacco cravings and withdrawal symptoms in temporary abstinent pregnant smokers. Addictive Behaviors, 39 (3), pp. 703-708.

Introduction: Smoking during pregnancy is common, and quitting at any point during pregnancy can yield benefits to both the fetus and mother. Smoking cessation is typically followed by withdrawal symptoms and a strong desire to smoke, both of which are likely to contribute to relapse. Research has shown that a bout of exercise minimizes cravings and tobacco withdrawal symptoms (TWS) after temporary abstinence in smokers, but these findings have not been replicated in pregnant smokers. This study examined the effect of 20. min of exercise on cravings (primary outcome) and TWS (secondary outcomes) among temporary abstinent, inactive pregnant smokers.  Methods: Thirty female smokers (Mean(M) age = 25.7. years, Standard Deviation(SD) = 5.5; M weeks pregnant = 18.2, SD = 5.3; Fagerstrom Test for Cigarette Dependence = 3.3, SD = 2.2; M 9.3 cigarettes/day, SD = 4.7; M hours abstained = 17.2, SD = 2.8) were randomized to 20. min of mild-to-moderate intensity exercise (EC; n= 14) or passive (PC; n= 16) condition. Cravings and TWS were assessed immediately before, during (at 10. min), immediately post, and at 10, 20, and 30. min post-condition.  Results: A 2 (condition)×6 (time) repeated measures ANOVA revealed that the EC significantly (p<0.05) reduced cravings (ή2=0.46) compared with the PC, across time. Non-significant, but nevertheless, large effects were evident favouring the EC over time for TWS restlessness (ή2=0.34), stress (ή2=0.24), irritability (ή2=0.21), tension (ή2=0.15), and depression (ή2=0.14).  Conclusions: Consistent with previous research, this study reveals that in pregnant smokers, a bout of exercise is associated with a reduction in cravings and similar patterns exist for TWS. Therefore, exercise may have the potential to assist in the initial stages of smoking cessation attempts during pregnancy.

Smoking cessation; pregnancy; withdrawal symptoms; cravings;

Addictive Behaviors: Volume 39, Issue 3

Publication date31/03/2014
Publication date online08/11/2013

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Professor Michael Ussher

Professor Michael Ussher

Professor of Behavioural Medicine, Institute for Social Marketing