Smoking and exercise is a deadly combination

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CHERIDINE P. ORO- JOSEF

CHERIDINE P. ORO- JOSEF

When life’s stress takes its toll, lighting up a cigarette gives temporary bliss – an act most people resort to in this fast-paced life. You hear men and women literally dropping dead after a heavy, strenuous activity. Many cases have already been observed among military men who undergo rigorous training and continue to smoke while doing so.

When the body goes into a physical activity, the muscles require more oxygen for it to function properly. The more you exercise or move a lot, the more oxygen you need. However, smoking may decrease oxygen because of the carbon monoxide it emits in the lungs. The carbon monoxide attaches to the hemoglobin (oxygen-containing blood) and hence preventing oxygen to be distributed in the muscles. The chemicals in tobacco too, may harm the blood cells and vessels. They can cause and accelerate atherosclerosis or the plaque build-up in the vessels causing it to narrow. This will limit the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of the body, making exercise and physical activity harder.

Smoking decreases lung capacity. Aging itself can decrease lung function by 30 percent when we reach 70 to 80 years old. If before you reach this age, your lung is already not functioning well, difficulty of breathing is not uncommon. The decrease in lung capacity can cause a smaller volume of oxygen to reach the bloodstream causing less oxygen getting into the blood. The chemicals in the cigarette can also damage the airways and may lead to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a term used for conditions like emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

The chemicals in tobacco can cause atherosclerosis, limiting the flow of oxygen in blood that your body needs during exercise PHOTO FROM DRANNIOHOWELL.COM

The chemicals in tobacco can cause atherosclerosis, limiting the flow of oxygen in blood that your body needs during exercise PHOTO FROM DRANNIOHOWELL.COM

Smoking can cause a two to three-fold increase in airway resistance. It also causes swelling of the airway mucosa, which adds up to more resistance. The tar in cigarette smoke also adds to airway resistance as it coats the lungs, reduces the elasticity of the air sacs and results in the absorption of less oxygen. Ultimately, when the lung is compromised, the heart follows suit.


It is therefore important that when you are doing a strenuous physical activity, you should avoid smoking. Combining these two activities is deadly. Good news is, when you decide to quit, exercise can help you. Exercising while you are trying to quit can reduce the feelings of withdrawal. Doing some exercise while you’re still smoking can show you just how much the habit has affected you. As you cut down on your smoking, you should see an improvement in your ability to exercise. Having this kind of physical record can be a great motivator to help you quit. However, it is best that you consult your physician before you go into an exercise program. Doctor can check your lung function before you embark into rigorous physical activity.

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1 Comment

  1. I am 77 years old. I exercise regularly and vigorously. I have been smoking almost a pack a day since I was 12. Please explain to me why I have no health issues up to now. My wife and children have been exposed to my 2nd hand smoke and they have no health issues.

    I also know a number of people who smoke and have outlived their friends who did not smoke.

    My current circle of friends are all younger than me, don’t smoke, and all have health issues.

    I hope you give me a credible explanation.