Feel the urge to reach for a cigarette?
Hop on the treadmill.
A new review of studies shows that exercise really does help smokers trying to quit by decreasing the urge for nicotine, Reuters first reported.
"Certainly, exercise seems to have temporary benefits, and as such can be strongly recommended," study researcher Adrian A. Taylor, professor of exercise and health psychology at the University of Exeter, told Reuters.
The review of studies, published in the journal Addiction, showed on a whole that doing some sort of physical activity -- whether running, or taking a bike ride -- was linked with decreased cravings for nicotine, compared with doing something less active.
"Despite a high degree of between-study heterogeneity, effects sizes of all primary studies were in the same direction, with PA [physical activity] showing a greater reduction in cravings compared with controls," the researchers wrote in the study.
PsychCentral reported that the study participants did not use any other kinds of smoking cessation programs or products, so it's possible that these may work better than exercise to quell urges. But, at the least, the study suggests exercise could be a useful tool to help kick the habit.
This isn't the first time fitness has been pinpointed as an aid for smoking cessation. University of Exeter researchers previously found that exercise changes activity in the brains of smokers, which corresponded to a lowered craving for nicotine. That study was published in the journal Psychopharmacology.
For more natural ways to help you kick the butt -- and thereby lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and a myriad of other deadly health problems -- click through the slideshow:
Mindfulness training helped participants in a 2011 Drug and Alcohol Dependence study to stay off cigarettes. That study included 88 people who smoked 20 cigarettes daily, on average, who were split up into two groups: One received four weeks of mindfulness training, while the other group went through four weeks of an American Lung Association stop-smoking program. The researchers found that more of those who went through the mindfulness training smoked fewer cigarettes -- and stayed off them -- than those who went through the other stop-smoking program. The mindfulness training included realizing when you're facing a craving, accepting it, thinking about what's happening and then taking note of the sensation (whether it's tightness or pressure), Psychology Today reported.
Jogging and bicycling aren't the only exercises that could help you kick the smoking habit -- Shape magazine reported that weightlifting could help, too. The research, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, showed that doing two hour-long weightlifting sessions for 12 weeks plus undergoing treatment to quit smoking was linked with greater success in quitting smoking, compared with just undergoing the stop-smoking treatment.
Eating lots of fruits and veggies could help smokers maintain a tobacco-free lifestyle, according to research from the University of Buffalo. The study, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, included 1,000 smokers ages 25 and older. The researchers had the participants answer surveys about their smoking habits and their fruit and vegetable intake. Then, they followed up with them 14 months later and asked them if they used tobacco over the past month. The researchers found that there was a relationship between the amount of fruits and vegetables the study participants ate, and the likelihood that they quit -- and stayed off -- tobacco. In fact, people who ate the most produce in the study were three times more likely to report that they'd been tobacco free in the previous month. The researchers also found a link between increased produce consumption and taking longer in the day to have the first cigarette, smoking fewer cigarettes, and decreased dependence on nicotine (based on test results).
A review of studies suggests there is evidence that acupuncture and hypnosis can work to help quit smoking, Reuters reported. Researchers, who published their findings in the American Journal of Medicine, said that other options -- like medications and counseling -- should be tried first, but that hypnosis and acupuncture could help if those options don't work, or if people don't want to go on medications, according to Reuters.
Who knew your phone could be used to help you quit smoking? A recent study published in the journal The Lancet showed that smokers who enrolled in a program called "txt2stop" -- where they received encouraging text messages to quit smoking -- were twice as likely to kick the habit after six months, compared with smokers who didn't get any encouraging messages. In the study, conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, one group was able to text words like "lapse" and "crave" to a phone number, and received an encouraging text message in return, CNET reported. The other group of people, however, only got one text message every two weeks, and that message just thanked them for being part of the study.