A study conducted by Adrian Taylor at the United Kingdom's University of Exeter and other colleagues from the UK, United States and Canada found that smokers were able to lessen their cravings for cigarettes by exercising.

The study examined 19 previous trials on the subject matter. Most commonly, participants were combined into one of two groups, one tasked with a sedentary activity like watching a video or sitting quietly and the other tasked with a physical activity like walking briskly or riding a bike.

In general, after working out, people had less of a desire to smoke than they had before. Taylor said to Reuters that smokers who had exercised reported their cravings as being a third less than those tasked with completing sedentary activities.

It is not clear what accounts for the difference, but Taylor notes that exercise provides a distraction. Physical activity also boosts people's moods, so they may not feel as much of a need to receive that same benefit by smoking.

It is also unclear whether exercise actually helps drive people to quit. Taylor and his colleagues had previously analyzed 15 studies on that subject for the Cochrane Collaboration, an organization that examines medical research.

Of the 15, only one of those studies found that exercise helped people quit smoking. Most of the studies had severe limitations though, like small sample size.

Regardless, exercise is a healthy habit for anyone to take. In addition, many smokers, especially women, report weight gain after quitting, which causes many to return to cigarettes. Exercising can help people to reduce weight gain though more research needs to be done on just how much exercise may help.

In the study, none of the smokers was in a smoking cessation program or using nicotine replacement gum or patches. Taylor noted that, since nicotine replacement gums and patches reduce cravings, the effects would probably be less for people using such methods.

The study was published in the journal Addiction.