Exercise does some pretty amazing things for your health. It probably wouldn't come as much of surprise that exercise can help smokers quit. This particular study - from the University of Exeter is unique however in that it shows the effect of exercise on images of smoking. Let's explore! 

  • The study - published in the journal Addiction, looked at 20 moderately heavy smokers. The smokers abstained from smoking for 15 hours before the trial.
  • All participants were shown smoking-related as well as neutral images before either 15 minutes of sitting or exercising at a moderate intensity on a stationary bike.
  • Afterwards, they were again shown the images. The research team used the latest eye tracking technology to measure and record their precise eye movements. They were able to show not only the length of time people looked at smoking-related images but also how quickly pictures of cigarettes could grab their attention, compared with non-smoking matched images.
  • The study showed an 11% difference in how long the exercises vs. non-exercisers looked at the smoking related images.
  • Also, after exercise, participants took longer to look at smoking-related images.
  • Exercise, therefore, appears to reduce the power of the smoking-related images to grab visual attention.
  • Many studies have already confirmed that exercise can reduce cravings and response to smoking cues.


    At any given time we are governed by a stimulus of some sort, whether it be the smell of baked goods or seeing someone smoking in a bar. This sort of study can certainly have an application outside of the lab, as cues that may cause relapses can potentially be averted by exercise.

    This is the first study however to use eye-tracking technology to show exercise can reduce interest in smoking.

    Finding something healthy and/or constructive to do is never a bad idea in my estimation. Perhaps it's a combination of distraction and a physiological and psychosomatic effect of exercising that helps smokers quit.

    Has anyone used exercise to help them quit smoking?