If you're smoking and working out, you might be wondering how nicotine is impacting your performance in the gym. And contrary to what you may think, any rush of adrenaline you feel after a hit of nicotine is often short-lived, and eventually, you will find yourself facing a dangerous habit.
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Yes, you can exercise and smoke, but that doesn't mean you should. Smoking decreases your physical performance and increases your chance of developing several health conditions.
Smoking and Working Out
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 34.3 million adults in the United States smoke. That's 14 out of every 100 U.S. adults over the age of 18 puffing on a cigarette daily.
If you're smoking before gym time, you might want to think twice before you light up. In addition to the well-known consequences of smoking such as increased risk of cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, the Cleveland Clinic reports that smokers also have less endurance, poorer physical performance and increased rates of injury and complications. Which makes sense when you consider how smoking has the potential to increase the risk of chronic bronchitis, emphysema and it also exacerbates asthma symptoms.
While the idea of smoking and working out sounds contradictory, you might be surprised to find out there are many smokers who exercise regularly. For some, the appeal of lighting up prior to heading into the gym is all about feeding a bad habit. But for others, they look forward to the rush they get from those few puffs.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, right after inhaling tobacco smoke, the nicotine you're exposed to can cause a kick or rush of adrenaline that stimulates the body and causes an increase in blood pressure, respiration and heart rate. Nicotine also activates reward pathways, which reinforces feelings of pleasure. This is why you may see people smoking before they work out.
Read more: How Exercise Improves Mood
Exercise to Kick the Habit
If you're trying to kick the smoking habit, engaging in regular physical activity can help decrease cravings and boost your overall health. Smokefree.gov, a website from the National Cancer Institute, explains that in addition to reducing cravings, exercise also helps you manage other withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, feeling more hungry, gaining weight, sleep disturbances and anxiety.
As your days without a cigarette begin to accumulate, you may also notice a decrease in your heart rate and an increase in lung function, which can boost your workout performance. While it may take a while to strengthen your heart and lungs, participating in aerobic exercise after you quit smoking will make a difference.
Read more: Aerobic Exercise Adaptation
Plus, exercise increases endorphins, which are the "feel good" hormones your body releases in response to physical activity. This may help curb some of the negative feelings you're experiencing during the withdrawal period from smoking.
It's also a great tool to help you manage stress. If giving up smoking is causing you to feel agitated or you're finding it difficult to relax, consider a yoga class to help calm your nerves, lower your heart rate and improve your mood.
Finally, if you're concerned that giving up smoking will cause you to gain weight, adding exercise to your daily routine and eating a diet that includes lean protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fat and plenty of fruits and vegetables, can help keep the pounds off and improve your overall health.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/National Cancer Institute, Smokefree: "How Smoking Affects Your Workout"
- The Cleveland Clinic: "Smoking and Physical Activity"
- National Institute of Health, National Institute of Drug Abuse: "How Does Tobacco Deliver its Effects?"
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention: "Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States"