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Exercise helps smokers to quit smoking, to remain smoke-free and to reduce the risk of death

April 20, 2012
Exercise may help smokers to quit and remain smokefree, according to new data presented today at the World Congress of Cardiology. Moreover, exercise increases life expectancy in smokers and non-smokers alike.

The study of 434,190 people who went through medical examination program at a private fee-paying company between 1996 and 2008 in Taiwan revealed that active smokers (those engaged in at least moderate activity) were 55 per cent more likely to quit smoking that those that were inactive. Furthermore, these active smokers were 43 per cent less likely to relapse than smokers that were inactive.

Physical activity among these subjects was also shown to increase life expectancy, even among smokers. Smokers that participated in physical activity had an increased life expectancy of 3.7 years and a reduction in all-cause mortality of 23 per cent - equivalent to levels achieved by ex-smokers with low activity levels. The results also demonstrated that active ex-smokers increased their life expectancy by 5.6 years and reduced their all-cause mortality by 43 per cent - equivalent to the levels seen in inactive non-smokers.

"Exercise can help smokers to quit and quitting smoking has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing CVD and that must be the goal of all smokers," said Dr. C.P. Wen, National Health Research Institute, Taiwan. "If smokers can continue to exercise, not only they can increase the quit rate, but also they can reduce their mortality for all cause and for CVD in the long run."

The prospective study of 434,190 individuals in Taiwan was conducted over a period of 12 years. Leisure time physical activity of each individual was grouped into 1) Inactive, 2) Low active (15 minute/day), and 3) Active (30 minute/day).

Tobacco use and cardiovascular disease

Smoking is one of the major causes of CVD and directly responsible for one-tenth of all CVD worldwide. Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack as people who have never smoked. Moreover, second-hand smoke exposure is responsible for 600,000 deaths every year.

A person can substantially lower their CVD risk by stopping smoking. Within five years of becoming a non-smoker, a person's risk of having heart attack is halved and within 15 years the risk of developing CVD becomes nearly the same of someone who has never smoked.

World Heart Federation

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