The truth about smoking and running

The two don't often go hand in hand, but running could actually help you quit your smoking habit.

The truth about smoking and running

As well as the strain on your pocket, your body faces numerous health problems when you light up a cigarette. ‘The tar in cigarette smoke coats your lungs and makes the air sacs less elastic,' says Smoke Free. 'Smoking also produces phlegm that can make your lungs congested.’

On top of these negative health implications, your resting heart rate increases when your heart works harder to pump blood through narrower arteries, making exercise and movement on a day-to-day basis harder. For serious addicts, giving up is easier said than done, but running could be the key.

Smoking and endurance

Some runners still believe that smoking won't effect their fitness. We all know an incredible marathoner who chain smokes on the side and a runner who regularly gets through a box on a weekend and still manages to blitz parkrun.

Exercise can help to combat some of the negative side effects of smoking for certain Herculean individuals, but it doesn't eradicate the damage.

Runners would gain a lot more from their fitness regime if they stopped smoking completely, as this study shows. ‘Smoking is a detriment to physical fitness even among relatively young, fit individuals. Study findings suggest that smokers will have lower physical endurance than non-smokers, even after differences in the average exercise levels of smokers and non-smokers are taken into account.’ 

Exercise certainly doesn't act like an eraser, but keeping active can help you quit in the long run. So, even though you may find exercise harder, keep going and side step those urges.

Reduce cravings as you run

Quitting smoking isn’t an easy task, but exercising can help to curb the urge to light up. Running naturally releases endorphins and provides an excellent distraction, switching your focus elsewhere. Running can also help you to work off withdrawal symptoms and reduce stress. 

Using exercise to help you to quit smoking will make the transition much smoother and aid your future health. As you stop smoking, lung function improves, heart rate decreases and blood circulation increases, which will help you stay on track with your new lease of fitness life. 

Speedy improvements

The negative side affects of long-term smoking do not bode well for your health, but even for heavy smokers, it's never too late to stop. According to the NHS, within the first year of stopping smoking the impact on your breathing can be huge, with lung capacity improving by as much as 10 per cent.

The NHS maintain this can have a huge impact on later life and improve your current health and wellbeing considerably. ‘Within 2 to 12 weeks of stopping smoking your blood circulation improves. This makes all physical activity, including walking and running, much easier’. 

So even if you're finding it hard to quit, don't give up. Lace up, head out of the door and give yourself a huge pat on the back for even getting started.

How to quit smoking

To stop smoking, Andrea Lindsay from offers the following expert tips.

  • Plan to stop smoking: People are more successful at remaining a non-smoker when they plan to stop smoking. On the day you stop smoking, remove all your smoking paraphernalia and tell your friends and family you are now a non-smoker. We are more likely to commit to things when we tell people what our plans are.
  • Know your reasons for wanting to stop smoking: If you are not clear about your motivation to stop smoking, it is unlikely that you will fully commit to being a non-smoker. You need to be absolutely clear about why you should bother to change. Write your reasons down, you are more likely to stay smoke-free!
  • Focus on the benefits of being a non-smoker: A 20-a-day smoker will spend in the region of £3,000 per year on smoking. What else could you spend that money on? How will your health benefit? How much more active will you be? What other rewards will you notice as a result of being a non-smoker?
  • Make it easy for yourself: You wouldn't leave chocolate bars lying around if you wanted to stop eating chocolate! Therefore ensure you remove all your cigarettes, tobacco etc to remove temptation. For the first two weeks try to avoid socialising with other smokers.
  • Focus on a new chapter: Recognise that you are moving into a new chapter of your life. Smoking is a habit that was once part of your life but it does not now reflect who you really are. You have made a commitment to change. Focus on the future; a happier, healthier, smoke free you!
  • Deal with cravings positively: If that old thought for a cigarette comes into your mind, do something different instead. Go up and down stairs, have a glass of water, take a big breath through your nose and release it slowly through your mouth. The peak of a craving only lasts a matter of seconds, help yourself get past that peak by re-focusing your mind.
  • Treat yourself: If you passed an exam, got a promotion or got a new job, the chances are you would celebrate your success in some way. Becoming a non-smoker is a major achievement and should be celebrated too! 

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