Most people assume, often falsely, that those who seriously workout don’t smoke. This isn’t always the case, and many smokers are also athletes. Unfortunately, like all aspects of health, smoking can greatly affect one’s performance when doing cross-training, or any other exercise routine. Because cross-training in particular requires moving from one activity to another frequently, smoking may have an especially detrimental effect on performance.
How Smoking Affects Physical Fitness
As anyone who has exercised intensively knows, working out requires healthy lungs. The body works harder and requires extra oxygen to fuel the muscles as they work to move faster, lift more weight, or go farther during their workouts. Smoking hinders the body’s ability to do this effectively. This is due to tobacco smoke containing thousands of dangerous chemicals, tar, and other toxic compounds. These reduce lung function significantly.
Even those who do not smoke every day will feel the effects of tobacco on their performance. They may become short of breath during exercise much faster than usual. Eventually, smokers will become winded even after short workouts. This doesn’t allow for the long, and often rigorous routines required by most cross-training programs, which often involve doing various exercises each and every week.
Contrary to what some believe, according to The Cleveland Clinic, smoking doesn’t only cause inflammation in the lungs. It also leads to swelling and inflammation in the heart and other muscles throughout the body. This can lead to lowered performance, and many smokers find that they do not achieve the same results from working out as their non-smoking counterparts.
Symptoms smokers may experience while performing cross-training exercises include, but are not limited to:
- Lowered stamina
- Muscle pain
Not only are smokers harming their own health, but also the health of those around them. Cross trainers who work out with others, as many do, may expose other people to second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke, both of which may hinder their workouts as well. Even a small amount of tobacco smoke is potentially harmful, according to the Surgeon General.
Number of Cigarettes Smoked
While cutting back on the number of cigarettes smoked will increase performance to some extent, even those who only smoke a limited number of cigarettes each week experience lessened performance. Fatigue, muscle spasms, and shortness of breath are all more common in those who smoke even a few cigarettes per week.
How to Improve Cross-Training Performance
Quitting will help smokers to improve their performance, but only if they are committed to giving up cigarettes entirely. Once the body is no longer inhaling smoke and carbon monoxide, the lungs will begin to heal themselves, and athletic performance will increase with time. It may take months or years to reach a similar level of performance as non-smokers. This will depend on how long the person smoked and how many cigarettes per day he or she smoked.
Those who need help quitting should seek assistance. There are numerous aids available to help one quit. These may include nicotine replacement products, medications, as well as e-cigarettes.