Nicotine withdrawal is characterized by increased cravings, negative affect and declines in cognitive functioning (Hughes, 2007). There is also evidence to suggest that impulsive decision making is increased during periods of nicotine abstinence among smokers (Doran et al., 2004;Field et al., 2006). Traditional therapies for smoking cessation have been largely designed to attenuate the rewarding effects of nicotine, but success rates remain low (Fiore et al., 2008). Ideally, smoking cessation therapies should attenuate multiple aspects of nicotine withdrawal (Bickel et al., 2007), including cravings, affective and cognitive/attentional disruptions, as well as impulsive decision making. There is growing evidence that aerobic exercise may provide an effective treatment for smoking cessation. During nicotine deprivation, single sessions of exercise have been found to consistently attenuate multiple symptoms of withdrawal (Taylor et al., 2007), and, in a broader literature, exercise has been shown to increase cognitive functioning (Tomporowski, 2003;Smith et al., 2010). Therefore, the main aim of the proposed research is to determine the effects of a single bout of aerobic exercise on the degree of impulsive decision making amongst nicotine addicted smokers. Demonstrating that exercise can attenuate withdrawal and impulsive decision making will further substantiate its use as an effective treatment for smoking cessation.
The goal of this project is to further our understanding of how a single session of physical activity can help people reduce their decision to smoke while they are experiencing nicotine withdrawal. This knowledge may lead to lower smoking rates, which will reduce smoking-related diseases and mortality associated with continued smoking.