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Study: Exercise Can Help Teenage Boys Stop Smoking

Boys playing basketball
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that teenage boys who undergo smoking cessation education combined with physical exercise are almost twice as likely to quit smoking as boys who get education alone.

The study, which was conducted in West Virginia, followed 233 smokers ages 14-19, many of whom had started smoking as young as age 11. Three months into the program, 10 percent of boys who had received a 10-week smoking cessation program had quit.  Of the boys who received the 10-week program plus a physical exercise regimen, 24 percent had quit smoking.

The New York Times reports that researchers are puzzled by the study's failure to replicate the results in girls:

The data did not explain why a gender divide would exist, but Dr. Horn speculated that a few things could be responsible. Teenage boys are generally more enthusiastic about engaging in vigorous exercise, and are "more confident in their ability to be physically active," [the study's lead author Dr. Kimberly] Horn said, while physical activity levels typically plummet as teenage girls get older.

"It's puzzling to us; it was a surprise finding," she said. "I think we also need to look at issues of self-confidence. It could be the girls started with some stronger fitness barriers to overcome than boys."

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