Last updated on Jan 19th, 2021 at 11:12 am

If you enjoy a gym workout or run followed by a cigarette, you should read this article to find out how smoking affects your level of fitness… 

Whether you light up daily or only have the odd â??social smokeâ??, thereâ??s no doubt about it, smoking affects your level of fitness! Find out how and what you can do about it.  

How does smoking affect my fitness level? 

To perform well, your heart and lungs need oxygen-rich blood. Cigarette smoke brings carbon monoxide into your system, reducing the bodyâ??s ability to transport oxygen to your heart and lungs.

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If you smoke, the same exercise will feel more difficult to you than to a non-smoker, as your heart has to do more work. 

On the whole, a smoker will reap fewer benefits from physical training, have less muscular strength and flexibility, have irregular sleeping patterns and be short of breath more often during exercise.

Can I still improve my fitness if Iâ??ve been smoking for a long time?

Our bodies start recovering from smoking almost immediately upon quitting, and if you manage to quit before the age of 35, your life expectancy will match that of someone who has never smoked! 

Almost all the damage of smoking can be reversed over time, including your fitness levels.

What specific types of exercises are best to regain my fitness? 

Your first step is building your lung capacity through cardiovascular training. Incorporating intervals of high intensity and recovery into your sessions will boost your endurance effectively. 

Whether you are running, swimming or cycling, start by including one-minute sprints followed by three-minute recoveries. Aim to increase the length of your sprinting intervals and shorten your recovery periods over time to improve your lung capacity. 

Thirty minutes of strength training two to three times a week should complement your cardio workouts.

Will my fitness be affected if I smoke occasionally? 

Studies have found that even light smokersâ?? arteries will stiffen after exercise, whereas non-smokersâ?? arteries will relax. 

The stiffer the arteries, the greater your risk of heart disease or stroke! This can be after just a single cigarette, so both your fitness levels and your health are at risk even from light smoking.

How long will it take before my fitness improves? 

Within just a few days of quitting, the oxygen and carbon monoxide levels in your blood will have improved, with all lung functions returning to normal after three months. 

In one year your risk of coronary heart disease will be half what it was as a smoker. 

How difficult is it to get fit after smoking? 

This depends on your training habits before you quit. If you were a regular exerciser, your performance will only improve after quitting, as your lung capacity will start returning to normal almost immediately.

If you are new to exercise, your efforts will not deliver you as high a performance as a similar non-exerciser who did not smoke, but this too will improve over time.

Could breathing exercises help me regain my fitness?  

You automatically draw in deep breaths with every puff of a cigarette, adding to the relaxation that nicotine offers. 

Deep breathing exercises after quitting will offer a degree of the same relief that you experienced as a smoker, while helping you improve your lung capacity. 

Also try this push-out breathing method, made popular by Dr Paul and Patricia Bragg… 

  • Stand straight with your knees relaxed and bend over from the waist, exhaling as you do so

  • Slowly begin to rise again, inhaling as you do

  • Once you are upright, fill your lungs as far as possible and hold for up to 20 beats

  • While counting, raise your arms above your head

  • Once you reach 20, lower your arms, exhaling as you do so

If you enjoyed this article, read Could exercise reduce the risk of cancer?

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.