Encourage your teenage son to hit the gym. A study conducted by West Virginia University researchers revealed teenagers who smoked - especially boys - when followed a regular regimen of exercise and counseling, were very likely to quit smoking.

The study will be published in the October issue of Pediatrics.

The main rationale for the study was driven by our high rates of smoking and our low levels of physical activity, Dr. Kimberly Horn, professor of community medicine at West Virginia University and the leading author of the study, said. And what we found is that those two behaviors go hand in hand.

A team at the West Virginia Prevention Center began the study in October 2009 involving 233 teens aged 14 to 19 from West Virginia, as the state is known for its highest smoking rates in the U.S. All subjects smoked daily, clocking about half a pack a day on weekdays and almost a pack a day on weekends.

The teens were divided into three groups. One group of teens had to attend a single smoking cessation session, whereas the second group took part in the American Lung Association's Not On Tobacco program (NOT), which provided 10 weekly sessions on health behaviors, stress management and life skills. The third group participated in NOT sessions in conjunction with physical activity education in which the subjects did not have to exercise during the physical activity sessions, but were given lessons on the effects of exercise and were provided with pedometers and log books to track their daily progress.

The study suggests, tobacco cessation program when combined with physical activity, gave 48 percent more effective result at getting kids from the West Virginia high school to quit smoking than those who were provided only minimal stop-smoking counseling.

According to Horn and colleagues, physical activity helps controlling withdrawal symptoms and cigarette cravings that makes it harder for them to quit.

Although quit rates for girls showed promising improvement, after both three and six months' follow-up boys showed better results.

It is possible that the physical activity adjunct, rather than physical activity itself, was more culturally suitable for boys than for girls, Horn's group suggested as a reason for the gender difference.

The researchers, however, cautioned that result should not be generalized as the sample size was small consisting children from only six or seven schools.

To get the actual result, we must replicate the study with diverse groups of teens, researchers said.