It can be tough if you want to quit smoking and improve their health and fitness. Not only are you fighting the nicotine addiction, but also the effects smoking has had on your body. However, exercising can really help you kick the habit. Here we look at how…
The effects of smoking are well known, but it is only when you’re trying to quit that you begin to realise what damage has been done. Smoking can make exercise incredibly difficult, yet exercise is a great way of helping you to quit. For smokers to improve their fitness levels, it’s important to understand what’s happening to their bodies and to overcome these issues and help the body to heal.
How smoking affects the body
Those who smoke not only find it difficult to catch their breath, but have less energy and stamina than non-smokers. During exercise blood flow increases to aid oxygen supply to your muscles, which provides energy to help you push your body the limit. For smokers, these limits are reduced. Here’s how smoking affects smokers:
- It narrows your arteries making it difficult for blood to flow to organs that need it.
- Carbon monoxide within cigarettes binds to the haemoglobin in your red blood cells, hindering the flow of oxygen.
- Your airways swell due to mucous membranes and the tar in cigarette smoke coats the lungs creating resistance.
- Tar reduces the elasticity of the air sacs in your lungs, reducing their ability to absorb oxygen and decreasing your lung capacity.
- Smokers have a higher resting heart rate than non-smokers because of the extra work and strain put on the heart to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
Each of the above issues make it difficult for smokers to breathe and increase the time it takes for the body to repair, which is less than ideal for smokers who want to increase their fitness.
How exercise can help
It’s important for us all to understand our bodies, but more so for smokers and for those who want to quit, as it helps you to understand your limits. By doing some form of exercising while you’re still smoking, you can find out just how much it has affected you. By slowly cutting down on the cigarettes you’ll begin to see improvements in your exercise ability, which also helps motivate you to quit.
Here are a few other ways exercise can help:
It reduces stress levels.
Quitting in itself can be stressful, and since people smoke more when stressed, it can be an endless cycle. However, when you exercise endorphins are released, helping reduce your stress levels, so it’s the ideal way to replace an unhealthy coping method with a healthy one.
It provides a distraction.
Exercise is a great stress reliever, but it also distracts you and allows you to remove yourself from a situation. While exercising, your desire to light up will be reduced, thus reducing the sense of withdrawal.
It reduces weight gain.
Many people worry about gaining weight when trying to quit smoking, but regular exercise helps to combat this side effect.
Need more help?
There are so many cessation aids to choose from that can help you to quit, and teamed with exercise it makes it even easier. It’s important to invest in support methods that work for you. Electronic cigarettes for example are great as explained by Liquid eCig UK,”[they] deliver the nicotine without the dangers of traditional cigarettes.” What’s more, as of 2012, they became the most popular smoking cessation aid in England and studies report that 29% of those who tried e-cigarettes quit smoking within six months.