As we grow old our lung capacity declines naturally, but smoking kicks that aging process into gear much earlier, around the age of 25 to be more accurate. A 60 year old non-smoker has nearly 100% lung function, while a 60 year old smoker will have around 50%. As well as all the lung infections associated with smoking, such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and lung cancer, this obviously has a knock on effect on your physical capability. To improve your fitness and be able to do the exercise to make you a stronger person, giving up smoking is essential.
Without our lungs at full capacity our muscles aren’t getting the full amount of oxygen they need to work properly, so we get tired and exhausted much quicker. A study was conducted that examined the relationship between smoking status and physical fitness of over 3,000 Navy personnel. The study found that smoking was associated with lower exercise levels and lower physical endurance, both cardiorespiratory and muscular. It is much harder to exert yourself when your lungs are only working at half their capacity.
So what is it that is blocking our lungs? Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, most of which are highly toxic, but the two main offenders are tar and carbon monoxide. Tar deposits in the lungs and leads to conditions that you see pasted all over cigarette packets nowadays. It clings to the lungs and blocks the cell function, getting into the blood vessels and traveling all around the body. Carbon monoxide quite literally suffocates us. When it gets into our blood it mixes with the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin in our red blood cells and replaces it with carboxyhaemoglobin, which prevents the blood from being able to carry oxygen. Smoking injects a regular supply of these two things into our body, damaging our capability to breathe.
Depending on the severity of your smoking habits, people tend to use vaping as an effective method to overcome their need for cigarettes. Also, there are a wide range of eliquid flavours available to choose from, having no trouble accommodating to your taste buds.
When you stop smoking, in just 24 hours carbon monoxide and nicotine are practically eliminated from the body, and already your lungs are beginning to flush out the debris. Within 2 to 12 weeks your blood circulation improves, enabling more oxygen and nutrients to get to your muscles, and after just 9 months your lung capacity improves by 10%. After a decade, your susceptibility to lung cancer and heart attacks are dramatically reduced. All these things will enable you to use your body to its full physical capacity and get to prime levels of fitness much more easily.
Whilst smoking was not found to have any direct relation to overall body strength or body fat, over time the inability to exercise for sustained periods will have a negative impact on muscle strength and metabolism, potentially leading to obesity and heart disease. The science is staring us all in the face. As the conclusion to the aforementioned study stated, “smoking is a detriment to physical fitness, even among relatively young, fit individuals.” For help giving up smoking, use the NHS stop smoking services and invest in an e-cigarette, a form of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) that is 60% more effective than any other form of NRT.
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