Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Expert advice on how exercise will help you to kick your smoking habit

Hands up if stopping smoking was on your list of New Year's Resolutions this year ... and hands up if you've already fallen by the wayside ! Well, to celebrate National Smoking Day today, SportsShoes are offering expert advice on how exercise can help you to kick your smoking habit.

Get fit and quit: 5 ways that exercise will increase your chances of quitting for good

1) Improve breathing

Acute cigarette cravings often last just five minutes. If you feel like a cigarette, try going for a run for just 20 minutes, by the time you return your craving will have passed.

Smokers often avoid exercise as they become breathless and get cramps. This is because carbon monoxide hinders the amount of oxygen that reaches the heart. You'll get more enjoyment from physical activity after you quit smoking and, by gradually building up your exercise levels, you will soon improve your lung intake. 

Set yourself small targets and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’re able to do more, in fact your lung capacity will improve by up to 10% within nine months – you certainly won’t want to ruin your progress by lighting up!

2) Reduce stress

Many smokers blame their habit on stress but scientific studies show that people's stress levels are lower after they stop smoking - nicotine addiction actually makes smokers stressed from the ‘withdrawal’ between cigarettes. Physical activity, on the other hand, will improve your state of mind and get the oxygen flowing, which will help you to concentrate better and increase your mental wellbeing. When you are working out, your body will release ‘feel good’ hormones which ease symptoms of depression and fatigue. Key hormones include serotonin, which regulates your mood, dopamine, which helps with concentration and norepinephrine, which influences performance.

3) Increase energy

Within 2 to 12 weeks of stopping smoking, your circulation will improve, this will make all physical activity, including walking and running, much easier. Cardio exercise will get your heart pumping which means it won’t have to beat as often to circulate your blood – thus your resting heart rate will become slower, reducing demands on your body and meaning you will have more energy.

4) Boost immunity

Smoking depresses the body’s immune response so there is less protection from bacterial, viral and fungal infections. A smoker’s body is more toxic too, so the liver is more stressed – making it a target for disease. Quitting smoking will make it easier to fight off colds and flu. Regular exercise will better equip your body to distribute oxygen, as well as encourage efficient functioning of the lymphatic system by stimulating the muscles – this will promote the removal of toxins from your body.

5) Reduce visceral fat

There is increasing evidence that smoking causes greater accumulation of visceral fat, which surrounds your intestines and liver and is a serious health threat. The more you smoke, the more likely you are to store fat in your abdomen rather than on your hips and thighs. Quitting smoking and upping your aerobic activity and strength training will help you to lose visceral fat and gain muscle mass.

Myth Busters – some people say that quitting smoking makes you put on weight – wrong!

The fear of weight gain can often put smokers off quitting – but this is a poor excuse. You simply need to be aware of the changes that will be happening to your body and manage them accordingly.

Myths include the following:

Smoking keeps your hands and mouth occupied and people who quit replace this habit with food.

Myth buster: this needn’t be the case; it is just replacing habit for habit. Before reaching for food, distract yourself by doing the laundry, phoning a friend or, better still, go for a run. You certainly won’t regret substituting smoking with exercise – when you raise your activity levels, your body will release endorphins and you’ll feel great, which beats the creeping guilt and sick feeling you get when smoking or binge eating!

Nicotine is an appetite suppressant, so when you quit your portion sizes increase.

Myth buster:  nicotine inhibits insulin and insulin breaks down the sugars in your blood stream. When you smoke, and there is less release of insulin, the sugar stays in your bloodstream and creates a hyperglycaemic condition in the smoker which gives the smoker a "fuller" feeling. This is actually dangerous and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Nicotine is not a magic calorie burner by any means, exercise, on the other hand, can burn off 200-600 calories an hour as well as supressing your appetite.

Your metabolism will slow down when you quit smoking, causing you to gain weight.

Myth buster: nicotine does elevate your metabolism; it also triggers a faster heartbeat which increases your chance for heart disease! When you quit you will burn calories at a slightly lower rate but, if you combat this with controlling what you eat and increasing your exercise, you can prevent any weight gain. You are more likely to exercise when you don’t smoke which will lead to long-term weight loss.

Smoking kills your taste buds, so when you quit you eat more.

Myth buster: developing a greater appreciation for the smell and taste of food should be something to embrace; your body is recovering from being dulled by the hundreds of toxic chemicals found in cigarettes! Actually you may become more sensitive to sugary and salty foods, take the opportunity to avoid sweet foods, introduce new flavours to your diet and sample seasonal fruit and vegetables. See our tips on healthy snacking below.

Our top nutrition tips for diet and healthy snacking to help you avoid overeating

Reduce your likelihood for post-smoking weight gain by adopting a sensible attitude to eating and snacking.

 To make sure you are not consuming too many calories, follow these tips for a healthy, balanced diet:

Eat three sensible-portioned meals a day and two healthy snacks.
Aim for 6-8 portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Eat at least three portions of fish a week; one being oily fish.
Increase fibre intake to keep your gut healthy.
Include some low fat dairy for added calcium and protein.
Cut back on processed foods (pies, burgers, pastries, ready meals).
Reduce salt intake. Try Lo Salt/lower sodium content alternatives.
Reduce sugar intake. Watch for hidden sugar on food labels.
Eat less saturated fat (cut fat off red meat; avoid crisps and fatty snacks).
Drink 2 litres or 6 large glasses of water a day.


Cravings are mainly caused by emotional triggers such as boredom, stress, or anxiety rather than physical deficiency. Snacking can be a good thing to provide nourishment and vital nutrients but sugar-rich choices with empty calories can lead to excess fat storage. Don’t make snacking, like smoking, into a habit. Distract yourself for half an hour and see if the craving wave passes.
Are you hungry or just thirsty? Try a glass of water first.
Eat little and often to manage your blood sugar levels.
Vary the types of food you eat to expand the range of nutrients you are consuming.
Plan ahead and prepare handy, readily-available healthy snacks like vegetable crudités (celery, sweet peppers and cucumber) with houmous, a handful of olives or fruit.
Swap chocolate for nuts or mixed seeds, which are packed with protein and minerals. In excess, they are calorific however, so restrict intake to about 90g a day.
Try fruit loaf instead of cakes and biscuits.
Choose oat biscuits for slow release energy. Add low sugar nut butters, cottage cheese or houmous.
Check the sugar content in energy bars. Read the label – above 10g per 100g carbohydrates, of which sugars, is high!
Swap popcorn for crisps. Low fat varieties are high in fibre but low in calories.
Got a sweet tooth? Frozen yoghurt lollies can hit the spot. If you are really craving chocolate, choose a couple of squares of dark/high cocoa varieties.

For more expert advice on nutrition and fitness please visit

Disclosure : Sports Shoes are kindly providing me with a pair of running shoes - I don't need help stopping smoking but I'm hoping this will be the perfect motivation for helping me get fitter !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Sunday weigh-in : Wheeee-fit !

1 comment:

  1. this is some really good advice, exercise is really good for beating anxiety and food/cigarette cravings.