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Does Running After Quitting Smoking Improve Lung Recovery?

author image Josh Patrick
Josh Patrick has several years of teaching and training experience, both in the academy and the private sector. He presented original work at the 20th Century Literature Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Patrick worked for three years on the editorial board for "Inscape," his alma mater's literary magazine. He holds a Master of Library and Information Science.
Does Running After Quitting Smoking Improve Lung Recovery?
Running provides an intense aerobic exercise. Photo Credit: Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

As part of a regular exercise routine, running improves endurance and aerobic fitness levels. Smokers have a difficult time maintaining high levels of activity because of poor heart and lung functioning. For those who wish to kick their habit, running and other forms of exercise may improve both their odds of success and their physical recovery from the ravages of smoking.

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Smoking Cessation

No bones about it: Smoking is a killer.
No bones about it: Smoking is a killer. Photo Credit: zyxeos30/iStock/Getty Images

The nicotine in tobacco is one of the most addictive substances known to science. Tobacco-related disease accounts for more preventable deaths than any other cause. Despite these startling realities, quitting smoking remains an uphill battle. Support groups and professional therapy are available to help with the mental aspect of the addiction. Pharmaceutical companies have developed drugs to ease the cravings and mood swings during the early stages of quitting. Lifestyle changes, including adding an exercise routine, may go a long way in helping you quit smoking permanently.

Benefits of Quitting Smoking

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half a million Americans die each year as a direct result of smoking. Quitting smoking provides both immediate and long-term benefits, not the least of which is a potentially longer lifespan. Within 12 hours of quitting, carbon monoxide in your blood returns to normal levels. Lung function and circulation both improve in as little as two weeks after your last cigarette. Ten years after quitting, your chances of dying of lung cancer are half that of a continuing smoker.

Exercise and Lung Function

Vigorous aerobic exercise improves the efficiency of the entire cardiovascular system. A physically fit person has a larger volume of blood in their body. The heart pumps that blood to and from the extremities at a greater rate as it becomes accustomed to regular exercise. Gas exchange is more efficient, both in the lungs and at the muscles. One of the causes of fatigue during exercise is the build-up of waste products, like carbon dioxide, within the muscles. Regular exercise trains your body to deliver oxygen and expel carbon dioxide more efficiently than a sedentary person's body.

Smoking Cessation and Running

Nicotine addiction makes the heart less responsive to stimuli. Smokers' heart rates are less likely to increase to the appropriate level during exercise, a warning sign of future cardiac problems. In the early stages of quitting, aerobic exercise may help to dull cravings. Making a habit of exercise will make returning to cigarettes less attractive. Exercise improves lung function in non-smokers, so it's conceivable that lung recovery in ex-smokers will be aided by running or jogging. Consult your doctor before starting any intense physical exercise.

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