Smoking after a workout might seem counterintuitive, but exercise is helpful if you're addicted to cigarettes. Although it cannot cancel out the effects of smoking, it will make you healthier and may even help you kick this habit.
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Smoking Is Hard to Quit
Despite the very well-established dangers of smoking, there are still about 480,000 deaths per year from smoking-related diseases in the United States alone. It's the number one preventable cause of death, according to the American Lung Association.
The problem is that it's difficult to quit smoking. Although patches and other devices are widely available and may help smokers ease off the vice, no method is completely effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that seven out of every 10 adult smokers want to quit. However, only 7.5 percent were able to do so in 2018.
While the numbers are troubling, there is hope for those who fear the risks of smoking but have a hard time quitting. The health benefits of exercise still apply to smokers. For example, a November 2019 study published in the International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences has found that exercise may increase lung capacity in those who smoke cigarettes.
Read more: Signs of Smoking Cigarettes
This Habit Hurts Your Workouts
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that exercise can make withdrawal easier. When you try to quit smoking, you might feel restless or anxious. On top of that, your appetite may increase, which could lead to weight gain. Regular exercise may prevent or reduce these side effects.
A small study published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research in May 2017 showed that aerobic exercise, such as jogging or swimming, may ease the anxiety associated with nicotine withdrawal. It can also reduce the cravings that keep you from quitting this habit.
Even though exercise can help, smoking will make it more difficult to perform well in the gym. A small study published in December 2017 in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation has found that subjects who smoked had less endurance and took longer to recover from training compared to non-smokers.
The effects of smoking on exercise are numerous. The Cleveland Clinic explains that smokers tend to have less muscle strength and flexibility than those who don't smoke. They're also at higher risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition that weakens the bones. As a result, they are more prone to injury during exercise.
Not only do cigarettes affect physical performance, but they can make you less likely to exercise, notes the Cleveland Clinic. It doesn't make much of a difference whether you smoke after a workout or before — the long-term health effects of smoking are the cause of most problems.
When you puff a cigarette, there are immediate effects due to nicotine and other chemicals. Your heart rate increases, your bronchioles constrict, your blood pressure rises and your body produces mucus. These short-term effects are nothing compared to the long-term dangers of smoking, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Read more: Can You Exercise and Smoke?
Smoking After a Workout
Since a workout can help curb your cravings for cigarettes, the best time to delay smoking might be the period after exercise. The next time you hit the gym, try to avoid smoking for as long as possible afterward. Even though you might fall victim to smoking after the gym, you should be able to resist the urge for longer each time.
It's important to understand that quitting is the only way to mitigate the effects of smoking. Exercise may help to some extent, but it can't undo the long-term damage associated with this habit. Once you quit, some of the benefits are immediate, while others take time.
When you stop smoking after exercise, your hearing and vision will improve, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Your risk of a heart attack drops within 24 hours and continues to decrease for years to come. Your risk of developing certain types of cancer may also decline.
Kicking this habit can improve your performance and make you feel better. Your circulatory system will become more effective at delivering oxygen to your muscles, which will decrease fatigue. Overall, the benefits of quitting are worth the struggle.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Benefits of Quitting"
- Tobacco Free Kids: "Smoking's Immediate Effects on the Body"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Smoking and Physical Activity"
- Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation: "Effects of Habitual Smoking on Cardiopulmonary Function in Taekwondo Athletes"
- Nicotine and Tobacco Research: "Acute Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Affect and Smoking Craving in the Weeks Before and After a Cessation Attempt"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "How Smoking Affects Your Workout"
- International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences: "The Effect of Exercising on Smokers’ Lung Capacity"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Fast Facts"
- American Lung Association: "Health Effects of Smoking"