Have you made it your resolution for 2018 to quit the cigarettes? Good for you! “The benefits of being a non-smoker can start as soon as one hour after the last cigarette, as blood pressure drops back to normal and circulation increases,” says Pierre Louw, owner of online business My Health and Fitness.
The other benefits of quitting are endless: a decrease in the risk of contracting heart disease and cancer, increased smell and taste and improved lung function. Not to mention you will no longer reek of smoke, and save a fortune in the process.
But quitting isn’t all that easy, as any long-term smoker is likely to testify. Harsh withdrawal symptoms are a reality of giving up the sticks, coupled with the challenge of breaking an addiction.
“Luckily, exercise may be able to help you overcome the pitfalls of becoming smoke-free,” says Louw. Here’s how.
It helps you regulate your mood
After 72 hours of quitting smoking, the body is deemed nicotine-free. Sounds good, right? Well, it’s a bit of a catch 22.
After 48 hours, anxiety, anger and irritability are at their peak for quitters and will only return to pre-cessation levels after two weeks. When your body is nicotine-free, withdrawal symptoms kick in and can lead to restlessness, concentration issues, impatience and even depression. Depending on how long you have been a smoker for, these symptoms will only subside after two to four weeks.
“Fortunately, studies have proven that short periods of aerobic exercise can help you control the emotional turmoil of having cigarette cravings. Aerobic exercise is physical activity that makes you sweat, breathe faster and gets your heart racing. Think walking, running, cycling and swimming. Or even yoga and boxing. Maybe it’s time to sign up for that workout class you’ve always wanted to attend?” Louw says.
“However, it is very important that you consult your physician to determine if your respiratory system is up to the challenge of exercise. It is also a good idea to consult a personal trainer, as they will be able to tailor a workout program for you that is suited to your unique requirements and physical capabilities.”
And your gut too
One of the most common effects of quitting smoking is a sudden increase in appetite and, subsequently, body weight. “Believe it or not, exercise actually helps to decrease your appetite. Also, if you do overeat, you need to shake it off somehow,” says Pierre.
Skip the burgers for the burpees; your future self will thank you.
It helps you cope
Cravings for a cigarette decrease while you exercise, and up to fifty minutes post-workout.
“So basically, if you do feel the need to light up, go for a brisk walk. The fresh air and spike in endorphins will do you good by helping you to strengthen your lungs, cope with stress and up your energy levels,” Louw says.
Drinking also often leads those trying to quit cigarettes right back into the trap. “If you drink and smoke socially, you might need to lay of the booze for a little while and replace hitting the pub with running on the treadmill. Giving up alcohol for any given period of time is beneficial to your health, and exercise will help you resist the need to pour yourself a glass of wine when you want to wind down.”
It’s something to spend your money on
As mentioned earlier, you’ll save a tidy some by laying off the smokes. Why not spend it on a gym contract, workout gear and trainer?
“Giving up smoking does not only pose challenges in terms of physical symptoms. Physcologically, you have become adjusted to it as a hand-to-mouth fixation and a way to pass the time. It makes sense that you’ll very likely need something new to dote on. Who knows? After a few months, you may very well end up becoming a full fledged fitness junkie with thousands of followers on Instagram!” says Louw.