What are the affects of cigarette smoking on exercise?
Smoking makes it harder to exercise and can cause certain conditions to flare up while exercising. Some of the effects of smoking are obvious. Less oxygen is available for the body to use during exercise and, since oxygen helps produce energy, smokers cannot work out at as high a level as they would be able to otherwise. Less oxygen is available due to the high amounts of carbon dioxide circulated into the blood from the lungs. Less oxygen is released to the muscles as well because of carbon dioxide. Airways are restricted during smoking and less oxygen is able to pass through them. Again, this leads to less oxygen being absorbed by the blood. The increased swelling of mucous in the airways also makes it harder for oxygen to pass through. The heart has to work harder and beat faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen and in order to maintain the physical demand of exercise. Nicotine from cigarettes also increases heart rate.
A question might arise as to why an increased heart rate from smoking is a negative thing, since exercise itself also increases heart rate. In addition to increasing heart rate, nicotine also increases blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels (particularly LDL levels, the “bad” cholesterol). It can also produce a spasm of the coronary arteries, thereby irritating the heart. Heart attacks are three times more likely to occur, and even paralysis is possible. This is due to the clogging of arteries to the brain. Toes or feet could have to be amputated in extreme situations from arteritis. Raising the heart rate from exercise, on the other hand, increases the functional capacity of the cardiovascular system. The demand for oxygen is reduced at any level of physical activity from regular exercise, and blood pressure can be lowered as a result. The chance of developing coronary artery disease is also reduced by exercising. As mentioned earlier, people with certain dehabilitating conditions can experience an increase in their symptoms as a result of smoking. For instance, people with low back or leg problems can experience increased flare ups if they smoke. Exercising regularly reduces theses flare ups.
Besides well-known treatment options (such as Nicorette gum), many alternative therapies exist to help people quit smoking. Exercise can help reduce tension and control urges to smoke. Drinking a lot of water and eating regularly also help. Acupuncture is one option more smokers are trying since it has been shown to increase endorphin levels that act to calm the body and reduce cravings. Studies are mixed on this, but one British study involving 78 smokers found that 12.5 percent of those using acupuncture quit smoking six months after treatment compare to 0 percent in the control group. Chamomile and valerian are two herbal remedies that might reduce stress and make it easier to avoid smoking.