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Health Psychol. 2014 Apr;33(4):349-359. doi: 10.1037/a0032423. Epub 2013 May 13.

Self-regulating smoking and snacking through physical activity.

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College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Sport & Health Sciences, University of Exeter.



Emotional snacking contributes to weight gain after smoking cessation. Exercise acutely reduces cravings for cigarettes and snack food. This study examined if different exercise intensities acutely reduces snack and cigarette cravings and attentional bias (AB) to video clips of snacks and cigarettes among abstinent smokers.


Abstinent smokers (and snackers; N = 23) randomly did 15 mins of moderate and vigorous cycling and a passive control in a cross-over design. Visual initial AB (IAB) and maintained AB (MAB) were assessed pre- and after treatment while watching paired snacking/neutral or smoking/neutral video clips. Desire to snack and smoke were assessed throughout.


ANOVAs revealed significant condition × time interactions for initial and maintained AB for smoking [IAB: F(1.58, 34.75) = 3.58, MAB: F(2, 44) = 4.52, p < .05] and snacking [IAB: F(2, 44) = 8.13, MAB: F(2, 44) = 5.08, p < .01]. IAB for both smoking and snacking were lower after moderate and vigorous exercise than the control. MAB was lower only after vigorous exercise. Fully repeated ANOVAs revealed a condition × time interaction for desire to smoke, F(3.31, 72.75) = 12.62, and snack F(4.34, 95.52) = 9.51, p < .001. Cravings were lower after moderate and vigorous exercise, compared with control.


Exercise acutely reduces both AB and cravings for cigarettes and snacks and may help self-regulation of smoking and snacking. Vigorous exercise was only more advantageous for reducing MAB.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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