While everyone knows that smoking leads to an increased likelihood of lung disease and certain cancers, that doesn’t seem to be enough of an incentive. So what other reasons are there to bin the smokes? Well, one of the biggest is the overall impact on your fitness.
The good news is that the very act of exercising has recently been shown to help beat the cravings. A study by Psychopharmacology found that regular smokers who cycled for 10 minutes at a moderate pace after abstaining for 15 hours didn’t desire cigarettes as much, mainly because the reward-processing center of their brains had already been triggered.
So you can kick start your bid to quit by going on a short jog. But what actually happens to your body when you quit and why do your fitness levels improve?
Firstly, you need to know that nicotine in tobacco smoke is responsible for increasing adrenaline production. Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone, which increases a person’s heart rate, blood pressure and restricts blood flow to the heart muscle. It also increases glucose levels in the blood. When you inhale, these effects take place very quickly making you feel more energetic but soon die down.
Thankfully just 8 hours after taking your last puff, carbon monoxide levels are reduced by half. 24 hours after carbon monoxide is eliminated, and 2 days after nicotine is gone. This is when cravings can kick in. If you find it hard to go cold turkey then nicotine patches or gum can work, and e-cigarettes can be a potentially less harmful option for nicotine intake.
Smoking also causes a condition called Atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries, which in turn affects circulation. As a smoker exercise is made doubly difficult because your lungs aren’t as effective at getting oxygen to your blood and your blood doesn’t transport oxygen as well. Carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke in the blood hinders the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen.
These problems take slightly longer to resolve. 2-12 weeks after giving up, your circulation begins improving. After 3-9 months smoke-free, you’ll be coughing and wheezing less as your lung function increases by up to 10%. You can help speed up the process of arterial clearing by taking Taurine supplements as it has been shown to be single best amino acid to reverse the narrowing of the arteries.
The longer you quit the more you can increase your general fitness levels and the more you’ll be inclined to exercise: it’s a happy circle. Start today and, who knows, next year you might be running marathons or climbing mountains. Or just playing catch with your kid.