Cardiovascular exercise and smoking are two activities which fall at opposite ends of the health spectrum. Cardiovascular fitness, or cardio, helps to improve heart and lung function, builds athletic endurance, and promotes overall health. Smoking leads to heart and lung diseases, hinders athletic endurance, and can cause a multitude of chronic and life-threatening health conditions, according to John Hopkins School of Medicine. Despite this, many still try and combine the two into the same lifestyle. Sometimes this done in an attempt to negate the effects of smoking, as if the benefits of cardio exercise will erase years of smoking. Other times, cardio fitness routines are performed for weight loss, mood stabilization, or for a number of other reasons.
What are the effects of exercising on smoking?
Smoking has various adverse effects on the body and is highly addictive. Unfortunately, even athletes can be caught smoking. On the other hand, exercising can help people stay fit, improve their heart rate and breathing, and increase their emotional well-being. On top of that, exercising is a great way to quit as it helps smokers deal with cravings.
How can I stay motivated to quit and start exercising?
Motivation is influenced by many external and internal factors. Thinking about the positive sides of exercising and the benefits of quitting should give you an initial kick of enthusiasm. Also, remember that non-smokers look younger and people who exercise show better psychological endurance. In fact, having a fitness routine can help you: even a short walk is enough for a start.
Smoking Vs. Exercising
When we compare smoking to exercising, we always think about these two habits as black and white, or in other words, as bad and good. While smoking has various adverse effects on the body, let’s explore the link between exercising and smoking.
First of all, it’s not a secret that many people who exercise on a regular base also smoke, even athletes might be caught puffing before or after a game. However, it’s not a secret either that smoking leads to shortness of breath. Also, many toxins contained in cigarettes decrease the oxygen levels in the blood and affect the mucus membranes. On top of that, smoking increases your heart rate, and as a result, less blood reaches your muscles, which may lead to fatigue. In fact, sport psychologists show that people who smoke have lower endurance and concentration during aerobics, weight-bearing sessions, and any other sport. Of course, shortness of breath is not only caused by smoking (but lack of general fitness), but experts admit that smoking affects sports performance negatively.
How soon after quitting smoking can I start exercise?
Although there’s no canceling out effect of exercise, sports have a beneficial effect on smokers. So you don’t have to quit to start exercising. Actually, sports will help you stop smoking. How? Simply because sports may improve your emotional well-being and increase your motivation. Last but not least, having a routine is a great way to deal with cravings after you’ve had your last cigarette. Research shows that smokers who are trying to quit and exercise are twice as likely to quit.
Benefits Of Exercising & Quitting Smoking
Also, as mentioned above, there are many long-term benefits of exercising on people who smoke and of course, on ex-smokers. Sports may:
- Reverse any lung damage and improve lung capacity
- Improve your heart function
- Increase your endurance
- Help your blood vessels transport oxygen and circulation
- Support you deal with craving
Last but not least quitting and exercising can help you look and feel better. It can help you concentrate, sleep better, and look younger.
Can Cardiovascular Fitness and Smoking Mix?
Smokers who want to do cardio workouts are usually encouraged to do so, assuming they are healthy enough and start off with a workout that is in accordance with their fitness level. Smokers who are new to working out may find that their endurance and stamina are not what they want them to be. This can be mistaken as beginner’s fatigue, but smoking will reduce the endurance of even trained athletes. Those who smoke may have to work up to more advanced workout routines more slowly than those who do not.
Smoking also hinders cardio performance in many ways. As the body inhales tobacco smoke, it is also inhaling numerous chemicals and carbon monoxide. The blood will then carry carbon monoxide to the heart and muscles in place of some of the oxygen they need. This leads to poor oxygen absorption. Not only is this unhealthy, but it also causes muscle aches and fatigue much faster in smokers than in non-smokers.
Even if the bloodstream was able to deliver and absorb adequate oxygen, the lungs of smokers are also less able to inhale oxygen to begin with. Airways become restricted, and mucus production increases as a person smokes, based on reports by the CDC. While the person may not be able to feel this restriction normally, during physical activity the lack of oxygen intake becomes much more pronounced and apparent. Those who smoke may find that they can’t exercise as long as their peers, even if they are the same age and overall fitness level.
For someone who is exercising for health, this presents a clear hindrance. For those who are trying to workout competitively, such as in high-cardio sports, will find the negative results even more present. Performance can be severely hindered by the use of tobacco products for those in high endurance sports, such as biking or running. Less oxygen is able to travel efficiently to the heart and lungs, resulting in greater risk of injury, shortness of breath, and decreased stamina.
How To Motivate Yourself To Start Exercising
Motivation is influenced by many external and internal factors. Thinking about the positive sides of exercising and the benefits of quitting should give you an initial kick of enthusiasm.
Also, do not fear weight gain. If you quit and start exercising, remember that sports reduce the production of ghrelin, which is a hormone that increases appetite.
On the other hand, if you’ve been smoking to deal with boredom or social anxiety, remember that having a good fitness routine can help you manage stress and meet new people.
And let’s not forget that exercising is much cheaper than smoking. If you can’t afford to go to the gym, why don’t you simply enjoy some jogging in the park?
As exercising improves your immune system and helps you deal with cravings, soon you’ll be able to enjoy all the benefits of your new healthy lifestyle.
5 Exercise Suggestions
- Before you start exercising, for heavy smokers, experts suggest a visit to the doctors to examine the heart and the lungs. In fact, for people who are struggling to quit, NRT is also an option as patches, for instance, won’t interfere with exercising.
- Start with a walk. A moderate walk for 10-20 minutes at least 3-4 a week is enough to help you quit, stay motivated and improve your fitness.
- Go to the gym. Gyms offer a vast variety of exercises and also are a great place to meet new people.
- Aerobics. Doing aerobics even at home can help you improve your heart rate and endurance. The Internet is full of videos and suggestions that can help you enjoy yourself.
- Swimming. Swimming is not for everyone, but it can help you improve your breathing lung capacity.
Whatever you choose, do not forget that exercising is better than smoking because any smoke-free life means a healthy life.