To celebrate National No Smoking Day this month
which is today (12th March 2014),
is offering some brilliant advice
on how exercise can help you to kick your smoking habit.
Get fit and quit!
5 ways that exercise will increase your chances of quitting for good
Acute cigarette cravings often last just five minutes. If you feel like a cigarette, try going for a run for just 20 minutes, by the time you return your craving will have passed.
Smokers often avoid exercise as they become breathless and get cramps. This is because carbon monoxide hinders the amount of oxygen that reaches the heart. You’ll get more enjoyment from physical activity after you quit smoking and, by gradually building up your exercise levels, you will soon improve your lung intake. Set yourself small targets and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’re able to do more, in fact your lung capacity will improve by up to 10% within nine months – you certainly won’t want to ruin your progress by lighting up!
Many smokers blame their habit on stress but scientific studies show that people’s stress levels are lower after they stop smoking – nicotine addiction actually makes smokers stressed from the ‘withdrawal’ between cigarettes. Physical activity, on the other hand, will improve your state of mind and get the oxygen flowing, which will help you to concentrate better and increase your mental wellbeing. When you are working out, your body will release ‘feel good’ hormones which ease symptoms of depression and fatigue. Key hormones include serotonin, which regulates your mood, dopamine, which helps with concentration and nor epinephrine, which influences performance.
Within 2 to 12 weeks of stopping smoking, your circulation will improve, this will make all physical activity, including walking and running, much easier. Cardio exercise will get your heart pumping which means it won’t have to beat as often to circulate your blood – thus your resting heart rate will become slower, reducing demands on your body and meaning you will have more energy.
Smoking depresses the body’s immune response so there is less protection from bacterial, viral and fungal infections. A smoker’s body is more toxic too, so the liver is more stressed – making it a target for disease. Quitting smoking will make it easier to fight off colds and flu. Regular exercise will better equip your body to distribute oxygen, as well as encourage efficient functioning of the lymphatic system by stimulating the muscles – this will promote the removal of toxins from your body.
Reduce visceral fat
There is increasing evidence that smoking causes greater accumulation of visceral fat, which surrounds your intestines and liver and is a serious health threat. The more you smoke, the more likely you are to store fat in your abdomen rather than on your hips and thighs. Quitting smoking and upping your aerobic activity and strength training will help you to lose visceral fat and gain muscle mass.
Myth Busters – some people say that quitting smoking makes you put on weight – wrong!
The fear of weight gain can often put smokers off quitting – but this is a poor excuse. You simply need to be aware of the changes that will be happening to your body and manage them accordingly.
Myths include the following:
Smoking keeps your hands and mouth occupied and people who quit replace this habit with food.
Myth buster: this needn’t be the case; it is just replacing habit for habit. Before reaching for food, distract yourself by doing the laundry, phoning a friend or, better still, go for a run. You certainly won’t regret substituting smoking with exercise – when you raise your activity levels, your body will release endorphins and you’ll feel great, which beats the creeping guilt, and sick feeling you get when smoking or binge eating!
Nicotine is an appetite suppressant, so when you quit your portion sizes increase.
Myth buster: nicotine inhibits insulin and insulin breaks down the sugars in your blood stream. When you smoke, and there is less release of insulin, the sugar stays in your bloodstream and creates a hyperglycaemic condition in the smoker which gives the smoker a “fuller” feeling. This is actually dangerous and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Nicotine is not a magic calorie burner by any means, exercise, on the other hand, can burn off 200-600 calories an hour as well as suppressing your appetite.
Your metabolism will slow down when you quit smoking, causing you to gain weight.
Myth buster: nicotine does elevate your metabolism; it also triggers a faster heartbeat which increases your chance for heart disease! When you quit you will burn calories at a slightly lower rate but, if you combat this with controlling what you eat and increasing your exercise, you can prevent any weight gain. You are more likely to exercise when you don’t smoke which will lead to long-term weight loss.
Smoking kills your taste buds, so when you quit you eat more.
Myth buster: developing a greater appreciation for the smell and taste of food should be something to embrace; your body is recovering from being dulled by the hundreds of toxic chemicals found in cigarettes! Actually you may become more sensitive to sugary and salty foods, take the opportunity to avoid sweet foods, introduce new flavours to your diet and sample seasonal fruit and vegetables. See our tips on healthy snacking below.
So, if you are a smoker – do not be afraid – Get fit and quit!
The following tips were provided by SportShoes and their expert panel.
I received an incentive in the form of a pair of running shoes to help me quit.