Smoking vs. exercise
Both exercise and smoking affect the same organ systems, but in opposite ways. While smoking decreases lung capacity, exercise increases it. In addition, as smoking increases your risk of having a heart attack, exercise decreases it. And then there’s the issue of phlegm—smoking produces phlegm (which congests the lungs), while exercise breaks it up and rebuilds the lungs.
The health benefits of quitting smoking
If you’re a smoker who is ready to start exercising but not quite ready to quit smoking, think about some of the following health benefits of quitting2:
- Within 20 minutes (of putting down a cigarette) your blood pressure and pulse read “normal."
- Within 8 hours the oxygen level in the blood normalizes, carbon monoxide levels go down.
- Within 24 hours your risk of heart attack starts to decline.
- Within 2 days you can taste food and smell things better.
- Within 3 days your lung capacity improves to the point where you can actually breathe better.
- Within 3 months your circulation improves and your lung functioning is up by 30 percent.
- Within 9 months your lungs are able to clean themselves again and your risk of infection goes down.
- Within 1 year your heart disease risk is now half that of a typical smoker’s.
- Within 5 years your risk of stoke is close to that of a non-smoker.
- Within 10 years your lung cancer death rate is half that of smokers and your risk of other cancers goes down as well.
- Within 15 years your heart disease risk is the same as that of a nonsmoker’s.
So, the good news is that you can start reaping health benefits the moment you take that last puff. Think about you can gain—being able to breath fully again; enjoying the taste and smells around you, having a vibrant skin tone; and having more fun with your exercise program. Once you feel the difference, you’ll wonder why you didn’t stop sooner. Do it today, it’s a choice you won’t regret.