No Smoking Day 2020: Can Exercise Counteract the Effects of Smoking?

11th March 2020

Nowadays, the warnings about smoking are abundant. We’ve all heard them a million and one times. Any school-child could give you a comprehensive run-down of why smoking is bad for you: the long-term damage to the lungs, the yellowed fingers and the inevitably shorter lifespan, to name just a few. However, since it’s National No Smoking Day, we wanted to delve into some of the dangerous effects of smoking that still fly a little under the radar or might seem small enough to be counteracted with an otherwise healthy lifestyle.

The unfortunate fact is that while an active lifestyle is a salve to plenty of physical or psychological ailments or symptoms, exercising while smoking is a little more complicated and can’t necessarily undo what smoking does to the body.

Why is this?

  1. The more you exercise, the more you burn fat mass in favour of building muscle mass. Muscle is built as it repairs after being used during exercise, and in order for this to happen the muscles need oxygen. Smoking starves the body of oxygen, by inhibiting the flow of red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. Therefore, your muscles are unable to perform, repair and build, and you’ll see little reward for your hard work in the gym.
  2. If you smoke even just a couple of cigarettes a day, your red blood cells can’t properly transport oxygen because the nicotine and carbon monoxide narrow your arteries and turn your blood ‘sticky’. This seriously restricts the flow of blood to your vital organs as well as your muscles, making exercise harder as well as less productive plus putting more pressure on your heart and lungs.
  3. Speaking of pressure on your lungs, smokers’ lungs suffer badly in the short-term as well as the long term. The tar from cigarette smoke coats your lungs and makes them much less elastic, significantly lowering their capacity for the oxygen that your body needs. Imagine that pinched-chest feeling you get when you go full pelt at the cardio, but if you couldn’t even fill your lungs properly…
  4. When the body has less oxygen to work with – and the arteries are too clogged and narrow to get what little there is to the muscles and organs that need it – the heart is forced to work double-time just to keep things ticking along. This means that your resting heart rate is elevated unnaturally high, which can be dangerous when you’re pushing yourself in a workout and so raising your heart rate from an already elevated state.

Exercise is a positive investment in your wellbeing even if you find smoking a tough vice to kick. With a touch of care to make sure that you don’t push your body beyond its limits, staying active can help your body and mind stay in a fit state and even help you quit smoking or other troublesome habits to help you unlock your natural potential.

Try our gentle cardiovascular screen, designed to identify both your current level of cardio fitness and the type of training that will best help you achieve your desired goals.

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