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Fight cravings with exercise

One of the biggest challenges of quitting can be managing cravings.

It can be helpful to remember that these feelings (though intense) won’t last forever and you have the strength to fight them. 

Exercise – whether it’s a light walk or a more demanding gym session – can be a useful strategy to have in your toolkit to help you quit. 

Here are just some of the ways exercise can help you combat cravings:

  • Manages stress - exercise promotes the release of endorphins, hormones that make you feel good, and may help ease feelings of stress or anxiety.  Plus, being outdoors in a green space, like a park, may also help reduce stress.

  • Good distraction – using the time that you may have spent smoking or vaping to instead be active can help focus your mind and distract you from thoughts of cigarettes or vapes.

  • Reduces cravings – studies have shown that a brief bout of exercise can reduce the urge to smoke.

Think about what you enjoy – a social exercise like dancing, sport or a walking group can be a good way to stick with it.  If you choose to do a little everyday, what is easy to do and can easily fit into your life?  Can you pair it with something you already do in your routine, like running on the spot for 30 seconds after you brush your teeth? 

Of course, you won’t be able to leap up every time you have a craving.  Remember, the more ways you have to respond to cravings, the more likely you are to quit. 

Check out LiveLighter for exercise tips, information and free workout guides and plans to suit every body.

Davina’s story – Be your best self

Davina used exercise to manage her cravings. “My number one priority is my health. I want to be the best version of myself – and smoking doesn’t come into that.”

Davina smoked 10-20 cigarettes a day over 16 years. 

She used exercise as a way to combat cravings and manage the symptoms of quitting, changing her habits by going to the gym first thing in the morning instead of lighting up. 

She also focused her mind on study as a distraction and enrolled in a personal training course:

"When the cravings come along – it helps to focus on something else."

Watch Davina's story above.

How Quitline can help

Quitline counsellors are here to support you throughout your quit journey. They can help you think of ways to manage cravings that you may not have thought of.

There are many ways to get in touch with Quitline (13 7848), including webchat, Messenger and more:

You also find lots of helpful tips and tactics on our Tactics Hub

Please note,this information is for general use only.  Please consult your health professional for further advice.  

If you would like to provide feedback, please contact 

Last updated March 2024

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