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No matter where you are in the quitting process, making physical activity a daily habit can help you fight cravings, avoid setbacks and feel better all over.

Why exercise works:

Exercise stimulates the brain in positive ways — boosting mood, improving concentration and relieving stress. All these things help conquer urges and give you more confidence to stay quit. Even walking briskly for five to 10 minutes has been shown to decrease cravings. Exercising with others provides support and helps keep your mind off of tobacco.

Getting started:

Research is mixed on whether tobacco users should start exercising before, during or after quitting. So it’s really up to you how you want to approach it. Here are a few possible jumping-off points.

  1. Start an exercise program before your quit date. This way you can adjust to one new behavior at a time. Become comfortable with your new exercise routine, and then adjust to your life as a nonsmoker.
  2. Start exercising during your quit. This way you can use exercise as a way to conquer nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  3. Become even more active after you quit. It can help keep up your confidence, and even help avoid any potential weight gain.
  4. Select an activity that you enjoy. Consider walking, bicycling, hiking, jogging or water exercise. If sports hold more interest for you, try tennis, basketball or soccer.
  5. Gradually work up to 180 minutes a week of cardiovascular activity. That works out to about 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.
  6. Perform strength-training exercises twice a week.
  7. Use a pedometer to track your daily steps and gradually increase to 10,000 steps a day for good health.

Note: Talk with your health care provider before starting an exercise program or increasing physical activity, especially if you have any long-term health conditions like heart disease, emphysema, diabetes or asthma.

Maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle

Developing an exercise routine is important, but so is simply becoming more physically active in your daily life. Use these 10 tips and strategies to make moving a more normal part of your daily routine:

  1. Avoid sitting as much as possible. Stand up and pace when you’re on the phone, listening to the radio or even watching television.
  2. Try active commuting. Walking or bicycling to work at least part of the way is a great way to build physical activity into your day and relieve stress.
  3. Try things out. If you’re new to exercise, try several fitness activities or sports to see what strikes your fancy. Choosing activities that are fun for you will increase your odds of sticking with them.
  4. Be active with your family. Find activities you can do with your family, like bike riding, hiking, going to the park or just playing tag.
  5. Put activity on your social calendar. Meet a friend for a walk, jog or whatever activity you both like. Sign up for dance lessons. Host a table tennis tournament.
  6. Practice relaxing exercises. Yoga, Pilates, tai chi or other mind-body activities are great for relaxation and fitness. Many how-to videos are available for free online.
  7. Be prepared. Keep a pair of walking shoes at work and walk during breaks whenever possible.
  8. Have a buddy. Invite your coworkers to join you for a daily or weekly lunchtime walk — it’s more fun that way and they’ll help you stick with it.
  9. Volunteer. Giving your time to others not only feels great but can be good for your body too! Find a service project that requires some physical labor or activity.
  10. Compete a little. Register for a fun walk or run with a friend or family member, and train for it together.

One of the best things about quitting tobacco is that you’ll have a renewed energy that you may not have experienced for several years. So get out there and use it!