What are some effects of smoking on physical fitness?

Samantha Reid
Health Education
Effects of smoking on physical fitness include that smoking affects the ability to breathe. Muscles need oxygen to perform and smoking deprives the body of oxygen. Smoking affects every cell and organ in the body, lungs being a very important one for everyday function and exercise.
Smoking damages your body’s ability to absorb oxygen. Oxygen, as we all know, is crucial for the well being of all cells of the body. Muscles do not function as well with compromised levels of oxygen, as is the case with every cell in the body.
Most people focus more on the long-term effects and consequences of smoking like heart disease and cancer; however, many health consequences can occur quite rapidly, especially with how it may affect physical fitness. The impact on the lungs is undeniable. Chronic cough, increased phlegm production, and bronchitis can impair and limit one's ability to stay fit and perform. One study showed that smoking hurt young people's fitness in terms of both performance and endurance, even in those trained in competitive running. It has also been shown that the heart rate of smokers is two to three beats faster per minute than that of non-smokers; so when exercising, a smoker's heart must work much harder than that of the non-smoker.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Like peanut butter and pickles, smoking and physical fitness just don't belong together. It's not just because smokers are less likely to exercise; it's because smoking actually impacts your body's response to exercise and your ability to perform it.

Smoke contains many toxic chemicals and gases, with carbon monoxide as the chief offender. Smoking has a huge effect on blood vessels and the circulatory system as a whole. Smoking interferes with lung function and the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen. It blunts your ability to raise your heart rate to keep up the demands of exercise. Smokers get tired more easily, have a harder time breathing, and have more leg pain during exercise.

The effects of smoking are detrimental to physical fitness. Everyone knows that smoking isn't good for you, but let's look into exactly what it does to the body.

First and foremost, smoking takes its toll on your lungs and cardiovascular system. A key component of your cardiorespiratory fitness is your bodies ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the lungs and blood stream. Smoking causes arteriole constriction, hardening of the vessel walls and even blood vessel death. This is coupled with the fact that smoking affects hemoglobin’s (your red blood cells) ability to transport oxygen throughout the body. This increase in workload for your heart translates into an increased resting and exercising heart rate. The tar and chemicals from smoking also coat the lungs, causing them to lose elasticity and become more ridged. This means it takes more strength from your respiratory muscles to inhale and exhale. Essentially, this means your heart and lungs are working harder than normal to keeping up with the demands of your body.

So what happens when your bodies ability to diffuse and transport oxygen decreases? It means that during exercise, all of the muscles and other tissues aren't getting enough oxygen to function optimally. This results in your muscles fatiguing much quicker than they normally would. Additionally, the vasoconstriction (blood vessel constriction) caused by smoking decreases the total amount of blood flow to those muscles as well. This results in a larger build up lactic acid and other metabolites in the muscle which means your recovery takes longer.

Smoking also causes your body to age prematurely. This is obvious in the physical appearance of those who have smoked for many years. The aging on the outside is the same thing happening on the inside, only worse. Smoking causes a drop in self-esteem, which is key for health and fitness in general.

The above affects are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to smoking and your physical fitness. The bottom line is that smoking will decrease your bodies abilities to keep up with the demands of your workouts. This causes your workouts to drop in intensity, duration, volume and variety which in turn slows down your progress towards your goals. Obviously the key here is to quit smoking through any means necessary. I believe that you can’t truly be healthy if you are a smoker...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.