They compared so-called healthy smokers to
nonsmokers by physical activity levels and quality of life, and
found the smokers to be less fit, less active, more anxious and
depressed and more likely to have heart disease.
"The take-home point is smokers are markedly inactive in their daily
lives even while they are still considered 'healthy,' or before they
develop any disease as a consequence of smoking," study author Dr.
Fabio Pitta, of State University of Londrina in Brazil told Reuters
"This indicates that, together with fighting tobacco use, fighting
physical inactivity in smokers is also a priority in order to avoid
the deleterious combination of smoking and physical inactivity," he
Prior research has identified reduced exercise in smokers as a key
factor associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
a major smoking-related condition. One study showed that increased
physical activity among smokers was associated with both a lower
risk of COPD and better-preserved lung function.
However, no prior study has objectively measured physical activity
levels among smokers with no evidence of lung disease compared to
To investigate, Pitta, along with lead researcher Dr. Karina
Furlanetto and their colleagues, studied 60 smokers and 50
non-smokers who were matched in age, education level, employment
status and other factors that may influence levels of physical
All of the men and women who participated in the study were asked to
wear pedometers, which measured the number of steps taken per day,
for six consecutive days. They also underwent tests of their lung
function and exercise capacity.
The investigators found that smokers walked less than non-smokers,
taking only 7,923 steps per day versus 9,553 steps taken by
non-smokers. The smokers, 60 percent of whom were women, and 48
percent of whom had attended or completed university, also had
poorer lung function and a lower exercise capacity than did
non-smokers, the authors report in the journal Respirology.
Smokers reported decreased quality of life, based on their responses
to a questionnaire that asked about general and mental health,
physical functioning, body pain and vitality.
[to top of second column]
Smokers also had higher levels of anxiety and depression, as
assessed by the questionnaires. The smokers studied ranged in age
between 39 and 54 years old, had started smoking at an average age
of 16 and smoked about 20 cigarettes per day.
"Other studies have suggested that increasing physical activity can
help tobacco users to quit smoking and to reduce considerably the
chance of developing tobacco-related diseases, such as Chronic
Obstructive Pulmonary Disease," Pitta wrote in an email. "This
underlines the importance of aiming to increase physical activity
levels in smokers."
Norman Edelman, senior medical consultant to the American Lung
Association told Reuters Health, "Yet again, the more you look, the
more deleterious effects you see of smoking — it's stopping people
Noting the benefits of exercise for heart health, endurance, and
weight, Edelman, who was not involved in the study, said "exercise
is good for everybody . . . even people with advanced COPD."
For people like the relatively healthy smokers included in the new
study, Edelman said, "don't feel comfortable just because you don't
have a diagnosis of COPD . . . As soon as you start smoking — with
the first cigarette — your lungs start getting abnormal."
"The message of the American Lung Association is: 'you have to quit
(smoking),'" Edelman said, adding that successful quitters often do
so after multiple attempts. "Keep trying, keep trying, and
eventually you'll be successful," he said.
Respirology, online Feb. 2, 2014.
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.