Down in Smoke: 4 Ways Smoking Hurts Your Exercise PerformanceMay 28, 2015
We’ve all seen the ads that tell us how bad cigarette smoking is. Usually we are told about one of the many life-threatening conditions that it causes such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and a whole posse of different lung diseases. We hear about these outcomes often (and for good reason), but don’t get to hear nearly as much about how smoking effects activity and exercise. It affects a number of aspects that are vital for physical performance including breathing, blood transport, heart activity, and the immune system. Here are some specific examples of how smoking affects the body and how those effects relate to performance during exercise:
Decreased Lung Capacity
Smoking decreases lung functioning by increasing the resistance in airways. This makes it harder for the body to get oxygen in and carbon dioxide out, making you feel out of breath more quickly during fatiguing activities. Long-term smoking can also make you feel breathless with leisurely activities that would not normally tire you out. This also limits endurance with cardiovascular exercising such as running, biking, and swimming.
Decreased Oxygen Intake
Carbon monoxide, one of the chemicals inhaled from cigarette smoke, is transported much more easily in the blood than oxygen. Smoking causes carbon monoxide to limit how much oxygen is carried to the rest of the body by up to 15%! This limits performance in oxygen-hungry activities including cardiovascular exercise. Decreased oxygen supply to the body’s tissues also affects bone health, raising your risk for fractures. Cigarettes also play a role in slowing down recovery time for healing tissues by up to 80%! (Now you know why physical therapists ask if you smoke)
Increased Heart Activity
Smoking causes your blood pressure to increase, as well as your heart rate to temporarily increase by 10-20 beats per minute. This limits the heart’s ability to adapt during cardiovascular exercise, causing worse performance. However, one side effect of this is burning more calories. Losing weight by smoking…this is great, right? Not so fast. The extra stress placed on the heart by smoking is significant. In fact, smoking a pack per day is as stressful to the heart as roughly 90 extra pounds of body weight!
Decreased Immune Function
Smoking kills the tiny hairs that sweep the junk out of your airways. This results in more bad stuff (dirt, bacteria) staying in your body, and so you become more likely to catch colds and respiratory infections. Chemicals in the cigarettes themselves also play a direct role in further weakening your immune system. This can go beyond common colds to more serious conditions which can significantly limit function.
Smoking has a dramatic effect on activities and physical performance that we don’t always hear about. If you’re serious about fitness and performance, you should seriously consider quitting smoking! So how has this information helped you? Let me know in the comments below!