How a Very Out-of-Shape Smoker Begins a Workout

Silhouette of an tired sportsman at sunset
Gradually build up your exercise level. (Image: AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images)

While quitting smoking is one of the biggest steps you can take in living a healthier lifestyle, working out may actually help you quit smoking by reducing your nicotine cravings, according to research published in “Psychopharmacology.” Since your body isn’t ready to tackle great physical hurdles, consult with your doctor before starting, and begin slowly to reduce your risk of exercise-related injury and improve your chances of sticking with your new lifestyle.

Step 1

Ask your doctor to help you assess your current fitness level. He can help you design a fitness program that slowly improves your endurance, flexibility and strength. He may also recommend that you take a fitness exam and make exercise plan adjustments based on your baseline fitness scores.

Step 2

Write out a plan with a “start” date at least one week from now. This will give you some time to get motivated, find at least one exercise window in your daily schedule and pick out a pair of exercise shoes. Set your initial bar lower. For example, “Week One: Go for one 10-minute walk every day at lunch break; Week Two: Go for one 10-minute walk every day at lunch break, and begin taking the stairs to the office.”

Step 3

Begin your exercise plan on your start date, and adjust it if your body feels overly burdened by your pace. If the 10-minute walk at lunchtime causes you to feel too tired, slow down the pace or break it up into two five-minute walks. Increase the pace or duration only when you feel ready.

Step 4

Write in an exercise journal every day, making note of what activity you did, when you did it and how long it lasted. You may discover that you were able to walk an extra minute one week after beginning.

Step 5

Make a note in your journal about how many cigarettes you smoke from day to day. This will help you draw a connection between your smoking habits and how you feel at exercise time.

Things You'll Need

  • Calculator

  • Stopwatch

Tip

You will have more success in your fitness regimen if you increase your exercise levels and quit smoking simultaneously. Consult your doctor for advice on current treatment options.

Once you quit smoking, you may not immediately notice a great improvement in your quality of breathing. Coughing, wheezing and breathing issues may begin resolving after about nine months. Until then, gradually increase your exercise duration and frequency as your physical fitness improves.

Warning

If you feel pain, nausea or dizziness while exercising, sit down and take a break before continuing on. If these symptoms continue, get medical attention.

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