Looking for some extra incentive to help you finally kick your smoking habit? You probably already know that cigarettes aren’t good for you, and have been linked to severe, long-term health issues such as cancer and chronic diseases.
However, it may surprise you the effects that smoking is having on your body right now, every time you have a cigarette. Cigarette smoke has an impressive range of devastating impacts to the body’s cells and organs, which translates to dramatic impacts on sports performance.
So if you are an athlete, or simply want to get fit, smoking cigarettes will greatly impact on your performance. Let’s take a look at exactly how smoking affects your sports performance.
What Smoking Does To The Body
Cigarette smoke is composed of thousands of chemicals, many of them toxic or carcinogenic (cancer-causing). When you inhale a cigarette, you are breathing carbon-monoxide (the poisonous gas found in car exhaust fumes), hydrogen cyanide, acetone and benzene, among others.
These chemicals come together to have the following effects on the body, among others:
- Damage to blood vessels, making them thicker and narrower, causing increased blood pressure, poor circulation and reduced blood flow to the legs and skin
- Damage to the alveoli (small air sacs in the lungs) and airways, as well as tar and phlegm build up, which combined causes breathlessness and reduced levels of oxygen in the blood
- Reduced bone health and weaker bones
- Poor teeth and gum health, and tooth loss
- Increased inflammation, which can cause muscle and joint pain
- Weaker immune system, increasing the likelihood of getting sick and prolonging recovery
Long term, according to the US Center for Disease Control, smokers are 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer compared to non-smokers, 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, 2 to 4 times more likely to suffer a stroke, and have the same increased risk of coronary heart disease. In addition to lung cancer, smoking greatly increases the risk of developing cancer almost anywhere in the body, including liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix and colon cancer. Smoking related causes account for around 90% of lung cancer deaths and 80% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Particular Impacts of Smoking on Sports Performance
Damage to blood vessels, lungs, bone health and inflammation have obvious impacts on physical performance. Athletes who smoke have lower endurance, increase risk of injury and poorer overall sports performance, compared to non-smokers.
Having high levels of oxygen in the blood is essential to strong athletic performance. When you smoke, the carbon monoxide found in cigarette smoke binds the red blood cells in your blood stream. This causes oxygen molecules to be displaced from the red blood cells, lowering the levels of oxygen available to you when you exercise, leading to breathlessness and harming endurance.
Combined with the reduced blood circulation also caused by smoking, this also means less oxygen is delivered to the muscles. This, in turn, harms muscle growth at the same time as contributing to lactic acid build up in the muscles, which causes muscle soreness and fatigue.
The Good News
If you’re a smoker, don’t worry – you don’t need to give up hope just yet! The good news is that once you give up smoking, your body repairs itself (and more rapidly than you probably think) allowing your sports performance to return to that of a non-smoker.
As soon as you stop smoking cigarettes, the body begins to repair itself. What’s more, these repairs happen much more quickly than you may realise:
- Within 48 hours of quitting, nerve endings in the nose and mouth begin to repair and the senses of taste and smell start to return
- Blood circulation improves between two and 12 weeks after stopping smoking
- Oxygen levels in the blood begin to return to normal after 2 weeks, reducing breathlessness and supporting better physical performance
- Within one year of quitting smoking, the risk of heart attack is back to almost the same risk levels of non-smokers
- Risk of contracting lung cancer is reduced by half 10 years after stopping smoking, and most cancers within 5 years
- Risk of suffering a stroke are the same as non-smokers within 2 to 5 years after quitting smoking
Once these repairs begin to take effect, sports performance will also begin to improve.
Of course, giving up cigarettes is easier said than done. Many smokers struggle to quit, particularly if they “go cold turkey”, or stop smoking completely overnight. Experts say that it takes most smokers 8 or even 14 attempts to quit smoking. This is because nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, almost as addictive as drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
E-cigarettes are one good option for both a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes and a tool to aid in quitting nicotine altogether. E-cigarettes contain nicotine but without the harmful and carcinogenic chemicals found in cigarette smoke. There are now a number of reputable vaping suppliers, such as Vape Mate who supply quality, approved e-cigarettes and other supplies for vaping, as well as giving tips on subjects such as safety and vaping etiquette.
Smoking cigarettes have devastating effects on health and body processes, which have equally devastating effects on sports performance. Quitting smoking, or switching to vaping, will have incredible benefits for not only your body but your health performance.