Getty images Pregnant women who kick the habit the wrong way could be doing just as much harm as good, a researcher says.

Pregnant women who want to stop smoking have new advice to rely on.

Researchers at Western University say they should get up and exercise. The experts say just 15 to 20 minutes of walking can stave off those cravings for tobacco.

A team from the faculty of health sciences, led by Harry Prapavessis, director of the Exercise and Health Psychology Laboratory, has had its findings published in the journal Addictive Behaviors.

Despite the health risks, 19 per cent of Canadian women between 20 and 24 reported smoking during their most recent pregnancy, the university says.

Studies have shown it can lead to lower birth weight, prenatal death and even behavioural problems in the child after it’s born.

“Based on what we know about smoking and pregnancy these numbers are too high,” said Prapavessis. “Consistent with previous research, our study reveals that low-to-moderate intensity exercise is associated with a reduction in cravings and even tobacco withdrawal symptoms amongst pregnant smokers.

“We believe exercise holds great potential to help women quit smoking during pregnancy.”

Research has shown that exercise minimizes cravings and tobacco withdrawal symptoms after temporary abstinence in smokers, but this study is the first time the scenario has been replicated in pregnant smokers.

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