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Understanding the Experiences of Heavy Smokers after Exercise

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DOI: 10.4236/health.2015.712175    2,577 Downloads   3,052 Views   Citations


There is now strong evidence that exercise has an acute effect on the urge to smoke and the accompanying withdrawal symptoms. However, the perceptions by heavy smokers of exercise and its relationship to the urge to smoke have not been well documented. The aim of the present study is to understand the experiences of heavy smokers with regard to exercise and its effect on their urge to smoke. Five physically inactive, heavy smokers are asked to abstain from smoking the night before exercising on a cycle ergometer under two conditions (one at medium and one at vigorous intensity done a week apart). Semi-structured, in-depth interviews are conducted after the second exercise session. Thematic analysis reveals six themes describing the participants’ experience of exercise, urge to smoke, exercise preferences, exercise and smoking relationship, exercise as an aid to quit smoking, and the effects of the experimental procedure. Overall, the participants’ experiences support the existing literature, which has posited affective, biological, and cognitive mechanisms contributing to a delay in the urge to smoke after exercise. The main findings pertain to: (1) the “feel-good” effect after exercise as a relief from the “feel-bad” effect during exercise; (2) the decreased urge to smoke after exercise, stated by all participants regardless of reported positive and negative feelings; and (3) exercise as a “clearing the mind” mechanism rather than an attention-distracting mechanism.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Hassandra, M. , Kolovelonis, A. , Chroni, S. , Olympiou, A. , Goudas, M. and Theodorakis, Y. (2015) Understanding the Experiences of Heavy Smokers after Exercise. Health, 7, 1622-1633. doi: 10.4236/health.2015.712175.


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