Effects of exercise on craving and cigarette smoking in the human laboratory

Allison N Kurti, Jesse Dallery
Addictive Behaviors 2014, 39 (6): 1131-7
Exercise is increasingly being pursued as a treatment to reduce cigarette smoking. The efficacy of clinical, exercise-based cessation interventions may be enhanced by conducting laboratory studies to determine maximally effective conditions for reducing smoking, and the mechanisms through which the effects on smoking are achieved. The main purpose of this study was to assess whether the effects of exercise on two components of craving (anticipated reward from smoking, anticipated relief from withdrawal) mediated the relationship between exercise and delay (in min) to ad libitum smoking. Experiment 1 (N=21) assessed the effects of exercise intensity (inactivity, low, moderate) on craving components up to 60 min post-exercise. Because moderate-intensity exercise most effectively reduced craving on the reward component, all participants exercised at a moderate intensity in Experiment 2. Using an ABAB within-subjects design, Experiment 2 (N=20) evaluated whether the effects of moderate-intensity exercise on reward and relief components of craving mediated the relationship between exercise and participants' delays (in min) to ad libitum smoking. Delays were significantly longer after exercise (M=21 min) versus inactivity (M=4 min), and the effects of exercise on delay were mediated through the reward component of craving. Future research should continue to explore the mechanisms through which exercise influences behavioral indices of smoking in the human laboratory. Additionally, given the benefits uniquely afforded by exercise-based cessation interventions (e.g., improving mood and other health outcomes), implementing these interventions in clinical settings may contribute substantially to improving public health.

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