You’re already struggling with nicotine withdrawal after you decided to quit smoking, so why suffer further from strenuous physical exercise?
It might sound odd to cause stress to the lungs after being weakened by years of smoking, but it does have many health benefits. Exercise lets you build good habits, release endorphins in your system to feel good, and make you much more athletic.
You might think it’s impossible to exercise after quitting smoking, but with the right mindset, care, and tips, you’ll be running and lifting weights in no time.
Let’s dive in.
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Consult with your healthcare professional
Smoking may have caused considerable damage to your lungs and other parts of your body, so consult your GP before you decide to run marathons or lift weights.
GPs don’t only create customised smoking cessation plans for you – they also give you a birds-eye-view of your health. For instance, after assessing potential COPD or early-onset arthritis due to smoking, they will warn you of possible physical limitations and prescribe alternative workouts.
Make it a point to talk to GPs before trying anything to keep your workouts safe and enjoyable.
Start slow and gradually increase intensity
After overcoming the initial discomfort and loss of breath during exercise, you’ve probably started to love how the endorphins boost your mood. At this point, you might want to ‘level up’ and heavily increase your workout intensity.
However, we don’t advise that you do this without consulting your GP. As you’re still recovering from smoking, we strongly recommend starting slowly to let your body get used to exercising without getting overwhelmed.
Exercise may feel great as you get used to the strain, but keep in mind that your body won’t strengthen and heal itself fast due to its still-recovering oxygenation levels. It’s more important to be consistent in your routines instead – if you keep at it, you’ll start to see massive performance improvements in just a few weeks.
Focus on cardiovascular exercises
If you start with cardiovascular or cardio exercises, you can improve and strengthen your heart and lungs.
Cardio exercises like brisk walking, jogging, swimming, and biking may be the most tiring, but they raise your heart rate, help burn fat, and improve blood oxygenation. Cardio workouts are essential in improving your breathing and reducing plaque that narrows your arteries to restore blood flow.
When you first start running or biking, don’t be disappointed about the short distance and time you can achieve. Over time, as your body recovers and improves now that you’ve quit smoking, you’ll be able to go longer distances in no time.
Incorporate strength training
Now that you’ve stopped smoking, your musculoskeletal system gets enough nutrition and calcium to build your physique. If you want to go beyond cardio exercises, you can incorporate strength training to improve your mobility and bone density.
Bodyweight exercises are best for people who have already quit smoking a week or a month. By doing simple wall push-ups, assisted pull-ups, and wall sits, you can improve your bone density and muscle mass without causing injuries by overloading your muscles.
We recommend working with a coach specialising in your chosen strength training programme. With an expert monitoring your performance, you have minimal risk of injury, proper nutrition, and a way to gauge if your muscles and strength are growing.
Find enjoyable activities
You’ve put your foot out the door by deciding to be physically active, but will you keep a routine despite being tired and sore after a session?
It’s important to pick an exercise you love and won’t grow tired of. If weightlifting didn’t work out for you, pick running or kayaking next. Was brisk walking too boring? Team games like soccer, volleyball, and football have been proven much more enjoyable and sustainable for most people, so sign up for a team.
There are plenty of physical activities and sports to go around, so try one and see which works for you.
One immediate benefit of exercising after smoking cessation is you will up your water intake. Sweating will have you drinking more than 8 glasses of water daily, which helps your body fight off the headaches and nausea common during nicotine withdrawals and flush out toxins from your body.
When you drink lots of water, your blood efficiently transports nutrients that aid in physically and mentally recovering after a strenuous workout, improving your performance during your next session.
Exercising after quitting smoking is possible if you treat yourself with kindness when you start slow and can’t work out for more than a few minutes. By starting slow, you give your body enough time to recover and improve its performance the next time you start your routine.
We know you’re reading this because you’re primed to exercise after deciding to quit smoking. Once again, be kind to yourself when you get started. There are also plenty of other challenges you might face on your quit journey, and we can help.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to bulk-billing Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good, including using responsible vaping products where appropriate.
Click here to book your bulk-billed telehealth consultation with an Australian healthcare professional and quit smoking today.