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Is Smoking the Key to a Better Workout?


I am surprised by the people I see walking down the street with a cigarette in-hand, or the gym-goers who need to drag before or after a workout. People light-up right outside our gym, interfering with the runners who are trying to breathe healthy air for a healthy body. Your smoking habit is killing your workout and it’s a bummer for everyone else around you too.

While smoking overall has decreased in the past decade, it still accounts for 1 out of every 5 deaths. According to the CDC, an estimated 40 million citizens in the US smoke cigarettes. It is the leading cause of preventable disease and death. The CDC reports more than 16 million Americans have a disease that is linked to smoking (CDC, 2016).

If you think that working out makes up for the cigarette in your mouth, you are wrong. To improve your workout and your health, you have to ditch the cigarette.

Smoking and Your Body

No organ or system in your body is immune to the effects of smoking. From the moment the cigarette hits your lips to the final exhale, your body’s health is at risk, and the effects are felt for years to come.

Smoking adds years to your body, while shaving years off your life. Smoking increases your risk for lung cancer and other cancers, for stroke, for heart disease, and lung diseases. The effects of smoking on your body is endless:

  • Causes brittle bones
  • Oxygen loss in your blood
  • Causes hearing loss, blindness, dental complications, and loss of elasticity in your skin
  • Increases blood pressure, causing your heart to work overtime
  • Increases cholesterol in your blood
  • Damages your lungs
  • Weakens your immune system
  • Changes your metabolism
  • Makes it longer to recover from injuries and surgeries

Many people believe that working out will counter the effects of smoking, but smoking is bad no matter when you do it. When your body suffers, your workout suffers.

Smoking and Your Workout

As you can see, smoking harms your body, and that list isn’t even the half of it. Everything I mentioned above directly impacts your physical fitness and workout goals. Smoking can and will have a significant impact on your workout. Not only does smoking restrict your oxygen levels and lung capacity, but it affects your muscle strength and physical performance, too.

A study with young adults looked at physical performance of young adults with one of three risk factors: smoking, lack of exercise, and overweight. When compared to participants with none of the three risk factors, the researchers found that the presence of at least of risk factor was associated with significant fitness losses and fitness impairments (Leyk et al, 2012).

A smoker’s blood is not healthy blood. A smoker’s blood has a dangerous amount of carbon monoxide in the blood, therefore robbing the blood of the oxygen it needs. Oxygenated blood is critical for healthy muscles and tissues, cell recovery, muscle growth, and lung function.

Smoking also affects your overall muscle strength and recovery. Smokers have reduced muscle strength compared to nonsmokers. In 2014, a published study concluded that smoking cessation is linked to increased muscle strength, muscle mass, and increased bone density (Rom et al, 2012).

Benefits of Stopping

When you stop smoking, the benefits occur within the first hour of stabbing out the butt.  You will experience the following benefits that will undoubtedly improve your workout and your health.

  • Blood pressure and pulse return to normal within 20 minutes.
  • The carbon monoxide levels in your bloodstream drop and your oxygen levels rise within 8 hours.
  • By day three, breathing becomes easier for you.
  • Within the first 60 to 90 days, your circulation improves, making physical fitness easier. You will also experience an increase in lung capacity by as much as 30 percent.
  • Within the first 9 months, the cilia in your lungs begins to recover.
  • Within the first year of quitting, your energy levels get a boost.

When you stop, you will see the benefits at the gym and in your daily life. Your workout will not reverse the effects of smoking, but working out can make it easier for you to quit.



Leyk, Dieter, et al. “Physical Fitness, Weight, Smoking, And Exercise Patterns In Young Adults.” Deutsches Aerzteblatt International 109.44 (2012): 737-745 9p. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.

Rom, O, Reznick, AZ, Keidar, Z, Karkabi, K, & Aizenbud, D 2015, ‘Smoking cessation-related weight gain-beneficial effects on muscle mass, strength and bone health’, Addiction, vol. 110, no. 2, pp. 326-335 10p. Available from: 10.1111/add.12761. [13 April 2016].