Quick Study: The One-Two Punch of Exercise Cuts Disease Risk and Nicotine Cravings

Two studies find that exercise may improve long-term health and help smokers quit.

Exercise's benefits may not only include protecting against chronic diseases, but also reducing nicotine cravings. (Photo: Stewart Cohen/Getty Images)

Aug 28, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

The studies: Two studies released this week show the health benefits of exercise. A study in Archives of Internal Medicine found that among 18,670 people taking part in a long-term study, keeping fit via cardiovascular exercise while in middle age helped reduce their risk of developing a chronic disease. In return for increasing fitness levels by 20 percent, study participants saw a 20 percent drop in their chances of developing diseases such as colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and congestive heart failure.

The next time you feel like lighting up, go for a jog instead. Research in the journal Addiction analyzed 19 previous studies looking at the effects of short bouts of exercise on the desire to smoke. Following those exercise stints, people had considerable reductions in cigarette cravings compared to those in control groups who did passive activities.

MORE: Exercise May Lower Breast Cancer Risk

What we already know: Regular exercise has been shown in countless studies to help promote longevity and reduce the risk of acquiring a number of diseases and conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Physical benefits of exercise include improved heart health, and mental benefits include declines in depression. It’s thought that exercise’s ability to reduce inflammation in the body may be at least partly responsible for disease protection.

What it means for you: The advantages of physical activity are many, and it’s never too late to start. Exercise doesn’t have to be arduous or boring, and doing as little as 30 minutes a day, five days a week can improve your overall health and quality of life. Walking, running, cycling, dancing, gardening and a pick-up game of basketball all count as ways to keep fit.

Do you believe in the physical and mental benefits of exercise? Let us know in the comments.

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