Our health is extremely important. Thankfully people tend to devote more attention to improving their well-being. Technavio reports that the global health and wellness market is expected to grow by an astounding $1.29 trillion between 2020 to 2025, with a CAGR of 6.29%. One of the primary factors contributing to this immense growth is attention to fitness. However, especially for smokers, the habit of using cigarettes regularly can complicate their fitness journey on a path to better health.
In this article, I want to address how to start your fitness journey as a smoker. I will cover the importance of slowing down -- you won’t change a habit like smoking overnight, which nicotine alternatives can be effective, the power of a social support system, and sleep as a universal remedy.
The Impact of Smoking On Health
The ill effects of cigarettes on our health are well-documented. Smoking is known to compromise the immune system. It damages the blood vessels, and impedes the body’s capacity to repair cells. The habit also heightens your risk of developing certain cancers such as cancer of the lungs, kidneys, liver, and throat. For women, the risk of breast cancer also becomes greater. Also, in my article on ‘What Is Prostate Cancer?’ I explain that men who smoke are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
While the consequences of smoking may prompt you to seek better health, they may also be the same factors that make beginning your fitness journey more challenging. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible — you have to recognize your individual needs. In the remainder of this article, I offer some ideas about how you can start on your fitness journey if you’re a smoker.
Exercising is one of the most important aspects of fitness, as it strengthens your muscles and helps you maintain a healthier body weight. A study published in Frontiers also states that higher physical activity levels are associated with better body image. You will also gain confidence and self-esteem over time. Yet even more important for smokers is that working out can increase the efficiency of your respiratory system and strengthen your heart and blood vessels.Cigarettes compromise your body’s ability to perform well, especially under high stress. That's why it’s important to accept that there will be an adjustment phase as you start out on your fitness journey.
Be kind to yourself when this happens. Instead of diving headlong into intense workouts, pace yourself and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercises. For example, you can start with 10-minute workouts and work your way up to longer sessions. If you are starting out completely fresh, you could also consider a couple of low-intensity cardio alternatives like fast walking. This is often referred to as low-intensity steady state cardio (LISS). It is important that you stay consistent. Your body will grow stronger and adjust to more difficult physical activities.
Switch to Nicotine Alternatives
With how harmful cigarettes are to our bodies, turning away from them can do wonders for your health. Continuing to smoke even as you pursue your fitness journey may leave you frustrated about feeling weaker and getting fatigued easily. However, you don’t have to quit smoking cold turkey.
One recommendation could be to try nicotine replacements to help you slowly let go of the habit over time. Nicotine pouches, gum, lozenges, and inhalers are products that can help you do so without impacting your health with the adverse effects of tobacco.
Nicotine pouches are bags of clean nicotine that you can discreetly tuck under your upper lip. In a blog post by Prilla, they explain that nicotine pouches differ from tobacco products as the odor from the smoke doesn’t stick to your clothes. They are also more affordable, as the price remains stable compared to tobacco. Nicotine pouches also come in a variety of doses, so smokers can gradually lower their intake of nicotine.
Other options include nicotine alternatives that can be ingested, such as nicotine gums and lozenges. You can also try Nicotrol’s nicotine inhalers. These work similarly to pouches in helping you reduce your nicotine intake over time. These can support your fitness efforts by lowering the adverse effects of tobacco on your body while keeping your withdrawal symptoms at bay.
Get Social Support
Starting on your fitness journey can be difficult if you’re doing it alone. This is especially true for smokers who might find it more difficult to exert themselves physically and may decide to start smoking cessation to supplement their health efforts. But one of the best ways to hold yourself accountable and feel empowered to do more is by opening up to your family and friends. This is referred to as external accountability and works wonders.
Letting your loved ones in on your intentions can help you get the support you need to undertake difficult goals. It can also be helpful when you have people to turn to when your impulses kick in and you start to slack off. And if you’re trying to stop smoking, this can be doubly beneficial. This is because your loved ones can remind you of your priorities. So don’t be afraid to bolster your efforts by making your goals known and sharing your progress.
Get Enough Sleep
An often underrated fitness tip is getting quality sleep. Yet this is ultimately the one piece of advice that can tie all of your efforts together. In my article ”Fatigue, Illness, Inefficiency - Consequences of Poor Sleep Hygiene” I discuss that sleep deprivation can cause serious physical and mental health consequences. On the other hand, getting adequate sleep can decrease feelings of hunger and keep your energy levels high throughout the day. It can also prevent you from making impulsive decisions, like opting for unhealthy foods or even reaching for a cigarette when you know you shouldn’t. Moreover, adequate sleep improves your overall mood so that you are less inclined to smoke for stress relief.
To achieve this, try to set a regular sleep schedule. You can establish a sleep ritual that can help put you in the mood. As always consistency is key. Building new habits like a better sleep routine will not stick over work and will only show results in the long run. , But it’s worth it. It will allow your body to establish an effective rhythm and normalize your sleeping patterns. Eventually, it will be much easier to get regular sleep and support your fitness efforts.
Start Your Fitness Journey Despite Being A Smoker
Smoking is a habit that can have significant long-term impacts on your health and well-being. I do strongly recommend that you find a way to re-balance your life and navigate towards a healthier life. We only have one life so we better live that healthy and happy. In this article, I shared some thoughts on how to start your fitness journey as a smoker covering the importance of sleep, a supportive social environment, nicotine alternative, and pacing yourself.
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