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Exercising improves nicotine withdrawal symptoms, helps to quit smoking

For many smokers, quitting the habit can be one of the hardest things they’ve done or attempted to in their lives. There are some things people can do to transit to a smoking-free lifestyle, such as using nicotine patches or vaping. The problem is you’re not getting rid of nicotine this way, a highly addictive substance. What might work better is physical exercise, a new study suggests.

According to British researchers at St George’s University of London, exercising activates many brain receptors share by nicotine. In other words, exercising gives off a similar buzz to smoking. This could mean that people trying to stop smoking could reduce the severity of nicotine withdrawal by working out more.

The researchers found that even moderate intensity exercise activates a type of receptor in the brain called α7 nicotinic acetylcholine — a target of nicotine.

The study was carried out on nicotine-treated mice who had to perform 2 or 24 hours a day of wheel running exercise. The rodents’ nicotine withdrawal symptoms were then compared to a sedentary control group.

Previously, other studies showed that running groups could help smokers quit the habit. Another 2012 study found that people who exercise are 55 percent more likely to quit—and 43 percent less likely to relapse into smoking, too. These studies found that people should exercise at least 30 minutes per day to reduce their nicotine cravings.

“The evidence suggests that exercise decreases nicotine withdrawal symptoms in humans; however, the mechanisms mediating this effect are unclear,” said Dr Alexis Bailey, Senior Lecturer in Neuropharmacology, at St George’s, University of London, in a statement.

“Our research has shed light on how the protective effect of exercise against nicotine dependence actually works.”

Findings appeared the British Journal of Pharmacology.

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