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But a new study involving older women might help change that: It found that for those who quit, even a bit of exercise helped keep the pounds at bay.
"Being active after quitting smoking was found to reduce weight gain, regardless of the amount of physical activity before quitting," Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society, said in a society news release.
She pointed to the new study, which involved more than 4,700 postmenopausal female smokers who were tracked for three years.
Not surprisingly, those who quit during that time gained an average of 7.7 pounds more than those who continued smoking.
But weight gain was lowest (5.6 pounds) among quitters who also upped their levels of physical activity. What's more, the benefit of exercise in this context was even stronger for ex-smokers who'd been obese than for those of normal weight, the researchers said.
The research was led by Juhua Luo of Indiana University's School of Public Health. Her team also found that when quitters moved to healthier eating plus exercise, they gained only slightly more weight over the study period than women who had continued to smoke.
And any amount of exercise seemed to help.
"Although the best results in limiting weight gain after quitting smoking were found in women who engaged in 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, benefit was also found in less intense activity, such as walking 90 minutes per week at 3 miles an hour," said Pinkerton.
So, she said, there's real "hope for those deciding to quit smoking -- exercise more and watch food intake to limit weight gain."
The study was published online July 11 in NAMS' journal Menopause.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: North American Menopause Society, news release, July 11, 2018