By now, we know that smoking is an absolute health hazard. Everything from pre-mature aging to serious fatal conditions, such as lung cancer, can be a direct pathway for smokers who cannot seem to kick the habit. Quitting is no easy feat for sure, but it well worth all of the hard work and your life literally depends on it. While there are various programs and plans to help you do so (e.g. the patch, nicotine gums, etc.), there may be another lifestyle change that you can make in order to assist your quitting efforts. Believe it or not, exercising may have an unexpected health benefit of being a crutch while you are on your journey to quitting.
One of the reasons why exercise helps is because it addresses the psychological barriers to quitting. Many people have co-habits that go along with their smoking or at least routine triggers, which are part of why quitting can be so difficult. For example, some people routinely reach for their cigarette after a meal or when they are having a cocktail and are in certain social situations.
Especially when someone uses a cigarette to ward off hunger, weight gain can be a particular worry for many quitters in progress. What better way, then to replace a filthy habit with a new, healthy one, all while promoting weight loss and/or management at the same time.
Stress is another potential trigger as people often look towards their nicotine addiction to help alleviate stress. Exercise is a great stress reducer than can help dissipate stressful situations so that you do not have yet another excuse to break your quitting streak.
Mood improvement is another benefit of conducting exercise while quitting nicotine. When quitting any behavior or addiction, you may be very likely to feel irritable. In previous articles, we have discussed the endorphins that are released during exercise and how they can impact your mood in a positive way. Because of this effect, it can help eliminate moodiness that comes along with quitting.
When selecting an exercise routine for the purposes of assisting your quitting journey, remember to pick something that you will stick with. Regularity will reinforce the routine behavior that you are missing from smoking cigarettes. For this reason, when you begin a new routine, make sure to set your workout time at a convenient time for you so that you will not have an excuse not to do it. Penciling precise times into your schedule is also a great idea. Also, remember to drink plenty of water to keep you energized and hydrated for your workouts and to flush out the toxins from the residue nicotine left in your system.
If you are a beginner, you will want to do moderate exercise for about a half hour, 3 times a week until you can work your way up to five times per week. Some types that you can try are:
Yoga: This will connect your mind, body and soul, which is definitely needed during this challenging time as quitting can be difficult for all three components. Also, increased flexibility is great as well as the deep breathing technique that is used. This will probably be challenging in the beginning as smoking impacts your ability to breathe freely.
Strength Train: This is yet another benefit, especially for your psyche, as you will be able to see the progress you make as you get stronger each week.
Cardio: To wind back the clock on all of the years that you have been abusing your heart through smoking, cardio is an excellent exercise source. Not only is it good for your heart, but it will also help to rid your body of the excess nicotine.
Various studies have supported this idea that exercise can help you quit smoking, even in moderate amounts of exercise. In fact, one study shows that people who exercise are 55% more likely to quit and 43% less likely to relapse. These odds make exercise as a quitting technique worth a try.
Not only that, but it can help you remain smoke-free for a longer period of time versus quitters that do not exercise. Exercise also seems to have an after burn effect, in terms of eliminating cravings for longer. Those who workout are said to avoid nicotine cravings throughout exercise and up to fifty minutes afterwards. Not to mention that many of the withdrawal symptoms that are present when quitting nicotine appear to be decreased with regular forms of exercise.
Quitting is not easy feat by any means so you should applaud yourself just for attempting to do so. As you make the next step to get healthier in general, make your quitting journey a little easier by incorporating exercise to address some of the mental and physical barriers to breaking your nicotine habit. Good Luck!