Differential Effects of a Body Image Exposure Session on Smoking Urge Between Physically Active and Sedentary Female Smokers

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Smoking is often used as a maladaptive weight control strategy among female smokers. Many of the perceived benefits accrued from smoking, including enhanced mood, reduced anxiety, and weight control, can also be achieved through physical activity. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a novel behavioral task (body-image exposure) that was designed to elicit body image and weight concerns on urge to smoke among 18–24 year old female smokers who vary in levels of physical activity. Using a cue-reactivity paradigm, 16 sedentary (SE) and 21 physically active (PA) female smokers (≥5 cigarettes/day for past 6 months) were exposed to a pilot tested body-image exposure session. Self-reported urge and latency to first puff were obtained before and after exposure session. Paired sample t tests showed significant increases in self-reported urge (p < .01) and quicker latency to first puff (p < .01) at posttest for the entire sample compared with pretest. Results of partial correlation (controlling for body mass index [BMI], nicotine dependence, withdrawal, and depressive symptoms) showed that increased time engaging in vigorous intensity physical activity was associated with lower self-reported urge to smoke at post (r = −0.44; p = .01) but not with latency to first puff (r = −.10; p = .62). These results suggest that among weight-concerned female smokers, physical activity may attenuate smoking urges in a context where weight concerns are increased. Future research should continue to explore effects of physical activity on reactivity to body image and smoking cues and variability in smoking cue-reactivity related to physical activity.

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