According to a study published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, postmenopausal women can limit weight gain that occurs after smoking cessation if they moderately increase their level of weekly physical activity.
To determine the effects of physical activity on rate of weight gain in postmenopausal women who have quit smoking, researchers conducted a large prospective study in which they followed 4717 women (average age, 59.3) who reported being current smokers. Each woman was weighed and asked to report her level of physical activity at baseline and then again at a 3-year follow-up visit. Physical activity level was determined by asking how many times per week and for how long they participated in various types of exercise (mild, moderate, strenuous, or very hard exercise). During the follow-up visit the women were asked whether they had quit or continued smoking. The majority of the women (3435) reported continuing to smoke, while 1282 reported having quit.
Via multiple linear regression models and chi-square tests, researchers found that, overall, quitting smoking was associated with weight gain despite quitters having reported a slightly higher rate of physical activity. However, results also demonstrated that increased physical activity after quitting can reduce weight gain.
On average, quitters whose physical activity level decreased between baseline and follow-up had the highest amount of weight gain (3.88 kg) and patients with increased physical activity (15 metabolic equivalent task-hours/week or more) gained the least weight (2.55 kg). Furthermore, quitters who had a low level of physical activity at baseline and a high level at follow-up in addition to enrollment in a dietary modification intervention experienced less weight gain (1.88 kg) than continuing smokers.
Researchers reported a few limitations to their study, including potential misclassification of smoking status and physical activity level due to self-reporting.
Despite this and other limitations, researchers said their findings suggest that, “among postmenopausal women who quit smoking, even modest increases in [physical activity] can attenuate weight gain after quitting. Future studies should determine if weight gain may be reduced through the combination of both increased [physical activity] and diet modification.”
Luo J, Manson JE, Hendryx M, et al. Physical activity and weight gain after smoking cessation in postmenopausal women [published online July 9, 2018]. Menopause. doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000001168