The effects of acute exercise on attentional bias towards smoking-related stimuli during temporary abstinence from smoking
Rationale Attentional bias towards smoking-related cues is increased during abstinence and can predict relapse after quitting. Exercise has been found to reduce cigarette cravings and desire to smoke during temporary abstinence and attenuate increased cravings in response to smoking cues. Objective To assess the acute effects of exercise on attentional bias to smoking-related cues during temporary abstinence from smoking. Method In a randomized cross-over design, on separate days regular smokers (n = 20) undertook 15 minutes of exercise (moderate intensity stationary cycling) or passive seating following 15 hours of nicotine abstinence. Attentional bias was measured at baseline and post-treatment. The percentage of dwell time and direction of initial fixation was assessed during the passive viewing of a series of paired smoking and neutral images using an Eyelink II eye-tracking system. Self-reported desire to smoke was recorded at baseline, mid- and post-treatment and post-eye-tracking task. Results There was a significant condition × time interaction for desire to smoke, F(1,18) = 10.67, P = 0.004, eta2 = 0.36, with significantly lower desire to smoke at mid- and post-treatment following the exercise condition. The percentage of dwell time and direction of initial fixations towards smoking images were also reduced significantly following the exercise condition compared with the passive control. Conclusion Findings support previous research that acute exercise reduces desire to smoke. This is the first study to show that exercise appears to also influence the salience and attentional biases towards cigarettes.