Does Physical Fitness Offset the Harmful Effects of Smoking?

Does moderate or strenuous exercise negate the harmful effects of smoking? It does to a point, but it doesn’t entirely reverse the problems smoking causes.

Everybody has habits that are both beneficial and detrimental to their health. Smoking is arguably one of the worst habits while exercising is one of the best. Believe it or not, some people work out regularly and still smoke every day.

Does moderate or strenuous exercise negate the harmful effects of smoking? It does to a point, but it doesn’t entirely reverse the problems smoking causes.

Athletes that smoke regularly will need to understand the long-term impact of tobacco. They might be more inclined to quit if they realize that working out does not entirely diminish the damage smoking has caused.

The health benefits of exercise for regular smokers are minimal

Anybody that has ever taken a high school health class understands the terrible consequences of cigarettes. They also recognize the numerous health benefits of regular physical activity. Intuitively, you might be inclined to think that working out cancels the damage of smoking.

Unfortunately, research has been conducted on this topic and the findings have not been very encouraging. Regular exercise can slow the progression of some smoking-related problems. A 2007 study from Spain showed that exercising could slow the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Dr. Judith Garcia-Aymerich and some of her colleagues analyzed health records from 6,800 people over 11 years send some of her colleagues analyzed health records from 6800 people over 11 years to determine the link. 

The authors found that smokers were 20% less likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease if they engaged in either moderate or intense exercise. Exercise did not reduce the risk to the levels of non-smokers, but it did make a bit of a difference.

Regular exercise can also somewhat reduce the risk of developing lung cancer, according to a study conducted in 2006. This study focused on female athletes that smoked, but experts speculate the findings apply to men as well.

Unfortunately, exercising does not reverse many of the other health problems caused by smoking. In addition to pulmonary problems, smoking also affects heart health. Your resting heartbeat will be up to 30% higher if you smoke cigarettes. This can create problems for athletes. You could be putting your health in jeopardy if your heart rate is too elevated. 

Since both cigarettes and exercise contribute to higher heartbeats, the risk of athletes going into cardiac arrest or other serious heart problems will be higher if they smoke. Your heart rate will be elevated for 12 hours after smoking, so there is little that can be done to reduce this risk if you smoke multiple times a day. The risk increases with the number of cigarettes that you smoke.

Athletes should be cognizant of all of these issues if they smoke regularly. Exercise might help mitigate some of the risk factors, but it does not come close to reversing them.

Athletes should quit smoking to fully reverse the health risks

Unfortunately, regular exercise does not completely reverse the problems associated with smoking. Fortunately, you can avoid long-term damage by giving up smoking for good. Surveys have shown that 59% of people that have ever smoked have successfully quit, even though only 70% have wanted to.

Are you dedicated to quitting smoking? You can succeed by taking the following steps.

Don’t expect to quit cold turkey alone

You need to be careful about overestimating the strength of willpower.  You might think that willpower alone will be enough to overcome your addiction.

Unfortunately, cigarette addictions are incredibly powerful. You will have to cope with the twin problems of physical addiction and psychological temptation.

You need a carefully thought-out strategy that you will be able to stick with.

There are many ways that you can try to quit. One option is to try tobacco alternatives, such as the nicotine patch or chew from Black Buffalo

Recognize common sources of temptation

Cigarette cravings are very powerful. Sadly, they are not the only problem that you have to contend with.

Every smoker has multiple factors that trigger their addictions. Some people are more tempted to smoke when they are drinking. Others are the habit of smoking when they are celebrating. Other people smoke when they have to deal with stressful life events.

If you are seriously committed to quitting, then you need to identify your triggers. You need to find ways to work around them, so you can avoid caving to your cravings.

Minimize and manage stress

Your anxiety levels are going to rise sharply while you are quitting smoking. You will need to prepare for this inevitability ahead of time.

Both managing and minimizing your stress is going to be especially important. Try to avoid unnecessary sources of stress, such as dealing with people that cause you grief, participating in political discussions online or taking on commitments that you will regret later on.

You also need to find ways to manage your stress that cannot be avoided altogether. Regular exercise, yoga, therapy and new hobbies can all help.