Pregnant women who want to stop smoking should go for a walk, according to a new study. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk for lowered birth rate, prenatal death, and behavioral problems in children. Quitting smoking at any point during pregnancy benefits both the mother and her unborn baby but strong cravings prevent many women from stopping. In this new study, researchers from Western University showed that walking 15 to 20 minutes each day reduces cravings for tobacco.
About 19 percent of Canadian women age 20 to 24 say they smoked through most of their pregnancies. The American Lung Association says 10.7 percent of women in the United States smoked during pregnancy in 2005. The highest rates of smoking during pregnancy occur in U.S. teenagers and young adults, with 16 percent of 15 to 19 year olds and 18.6 percent of women 20 to 24 who report smoking during pregnancy.
In the U.S., smoking during pregnancy accounts for 20 to 30 percent of the cases of low birth weight, up to 14 percent of pre-term babies, and approximately one-tenth of all infant deaths. Babies born to women who smoke are also more than twice as likely to suffer asthma. Caring for smoking-related pre-natal illnesses costs this nation about $366 million each year. Quitting smoking within the first three months of pregnancy reduces the risk for health problems and their associated costs.
Previous studies have underscored the value of exercise in reducing cravings for tobacco but this was the first research to study the benefits of low to moderate intensity physical activity to pregnant women who want to quit smoking.
Thirty women from Canada and England participated in the study. All were in their second trimesters, were temporarily inactive, and said they smoked about ten cigarettes each day. The researchers wanted to study the effects 20 minutes of exercise would have on participants’ cravings.
Study participants reported a 30 percent reduction in cravings immediately after exercise, although these cravings did return after a half hour. They also said they felt less anxious, restless, tense, and depressed during the study.
- Prapavessis, Harry, et al. "The Effects of Acute Exercise on Tobacco Cravings and Withdrawal Symptoms in Temporary Abstinent Pregnant Smokers." Addictive Behaviors. 8 Nov. 2013. Web. 30 Dec. 2013.
- "Women and Tobacco Use - American Lung Association." American Lung Association. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 30 Dec. 2013.