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FRIDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- A small amount of daily exercise can help teen smokers cut down on or quit their harmful habit, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at 233 teens at 19 high schools in West Virginia, which has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation. Nearly 13 percent of people under age 18 in the state are smokers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All the teens in the study were daily smokers who smoked an average of half a pack a day on weekdays and a pack a day on weekends. They also had other unhealthy behaviors.
"It is not unusual for teenage smokers to engage in other unhealthy habits. Smoking and physical inactivity, for instance, often go hand in hand," study lead author Kimberly Horn, associate dean for research at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, in Washington, D.C., said in a university news release.
The teens in the study were divided into three groups: one group took part in a smoking cessation program combined with a fitness program, another group took part in the smoking cessation program only and the third group heard only a short antismoking lecture.
All of the teens increased their amount of daily physical activity just by being in the study. Those who increased the number of days in which they did at least 20 minutes of exercise -- equivalent to a short walk -- significantly reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked.
Teens were more likely to quit smoking if they took part in the combination smoking cessation and fitness program and increased the number of days in which they did at least 30 minutes of exercise, according to the study, which was published online April 9 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
"This study adds to evidence suggesting that exercise can help teenagers who are trying to quit smoking," Horn said.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: George Washington University, news release, April 9, 2013