Fitness and Tobacco Don’t Mix
Fitness and Tobacco Don't Mix
Tobacco and fitness are like oil and water; they just don’t mix. No matter how hard you try, you can’t deny the evidence confirming that tobacco use negatively impacts fitness and physical health.
The evidence is even more persuasive for military service men and women. Tobacco users are more likely to perform poorly on military fitness evaluations,1,2 and smoking is one of the best predictors of military training failure.3
Getting in excellent physical shape isn’t exactly easy, but it’s a critical part of a healthy lifestyle, and it’s especially important for men and women in the military. Tobacco cessation can accelerate your fitness training. Not only does quitting tobacco improve your exercise performance, exercise increases your chances of quitting tobacco and staying quit.
Five Ways Quitting Tobacco Can Improve Your Health and Fitness
- Quitting tobacco can improve your lung function.4 The better you can breathe, the more likely you are to excel in your fitness tests and in the field.
- Ditching cigarettes and smokeless tobacco will decrease your likelihood of injury, hospitalization, and lost work days.5 Tobacco users tend to have more injuries and their bodies take longer to recover.
- Smoking cessation is associated with increased likelihood of daily exercise.6 More exercise means you’ll be stronger and have better endurance.
- When you quit tobacco, you’ll have better blood circulation and more energy. Increased blood flow will get your body the oxygen it needs to perform at its highest level. Tobacco use can cause poor blood circulation, fatigue, muscle weakness, decreased readiness, and poor physical performance.7
- Quitting tobacco may help you reduce your stress and enable you to use positive stress-coping strategies.8 When you quit, you’ll also stop suffering from additional short-term nicotine withdrawal symptoms, including difficulty concentrating, irritability, cognitive impairment, and decreased reaction time.9 Without tobacco, your life can be less stressful; you’ll be alert, attentive, and able to take on the challenge ahead.
Exercise Can Improve Your Chances of Quitting Tobacco
Exercise can diminish nicotine withdrawal symptoms and help you avoid relapse. Just 10 minutes of moderate intensity exercise can reduce your desire to smoke.10 Boredom, stress, and anxiety are common withdrawal symptoms and can cause cravings, but one recent study found that a group of tobacco users who exercised had better moods and fewer tobacco cravings than a group who did not exercise.11 Exercise can also reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.12
Don’t Let Worries About Weight Gain Weigh You Down
You’ve probably heard that quitting tobacco leads to weight gain. While quitting tobacco does slow your metabolism, you’ll have more energy and be better able to exercisewhich increases metabolism. Exercise can ease concerns of weight gain, eliminating one of the barriers to quitting tobacco.
Many people find that chewing sugar-free gum or eating healthy snacks, such as carrots or celery sticks, helps them avoid tobacco triggers and weight gain. Picking up a hobby that keeps your hands and mind busy can also steer you away from a pack of cigarettes and the cookie jar. Read our article on avoiding weight gain for more tips and tricks.
Whether you’re getting in shape for fitness testing, trying to improve your military performance, or you just want to get healthy, quitting tobacco is an important step in your fitness journey. Quitting tobacco and exercising is a winning combination that can help you get stronger, healthier, and physically fit. When you’re ready to quit, we’re here to help. Quit TobaccoMake Everyone Proud.
1 Conway, T. L., & Cronan, T. A. (1992). Smoking, exercise, and physical fitness. Preventive Medicine, 21, 723–732.
2 Jensen, R. G. (1986). The effect of cigarette smoking on Army Physical Readiness Test performance of enlisted Army medical department personnel. Military Medicine, 151, 83–85.
3 Klesges, R. C., et al. (2001). The association of smoking and the cost of military training. Tobacco Control, 10, 43–47.
5 Robbins, A. S., at al. (2000). Short-term effects of cigarette smoking on hospitalization and associated lost workdays in a young, healthy population. Tobacco Control, 9, 389–396.
7 http://www.nature.com/clpt/journal/v44/n1/pdf/clpt1988107a.pdf (PDF, 454 KB)
10 http://www.springerlink.com/content/g0050646v843402l/fulltext.pdf (PDF, 132 KB)
11 http://download.ihrsa.org/wellnessresource/v5/i10/v5_i10_p1.pdf (PDF, 667 KB)