Smoking’s Impact on Cardiovascular Fitness Routines

Smoking causes many adverse health effects, including heart disease. While cardio-based exercise routines promote strength and good health, the effects of tobacco are not negated by engaging in healthy activities.

Cardiovascular exercise and smoking are two activities which fall at opposite ends of the health spectrum. Cardiovascular fitness, or cardio, helps to improve heart and lung function, builds athletic endurance, and promotes overall health. Smoking leads to heart and lung diseases, hinders athletic endurance, and can cause a multitude of chronic and life-threatening health conditions, according to John Hopkins School of Medicine. Despite this, many still try and combine the two into the same lifestyle. Sometimes this done in an attempt to negate the effects of smoking, as if the benefits of cardio exercise will erase years of smoking. Other times, cardio fitness routines are performed for weight loss, mood stabilization, or for a number of other reasons.

Can Cardiovascular Fitness and Smoking Mix?

Smokers who want to do cardio workouts are usually encouraged to do so, assuming they are healthy enough and start off with a workout that is in accordance with their fitness level. Smokers who are new to working out may find that their endurance and stamina are not what they want them to be. This can be mistaken as beginner’s fatigue, but smoking will reduce the endurance of even trained athletes. Those who smoke may have to work up to more advanced workout routines more slowly than those who do not.

While working out is beneficial for anyone, including smokers, it won’t prevent the health complications which can come as a result of tobacco use. This is especially true for heavy or long-term smokers.

Smoking also hinders cardio performance in many ways. As the body inhales tobacco smoke, it is also inhaling numerous chemicals and carbon monoxide. The blood will then carry carbon monoxide to the heart and muscles in place of some of the oxygen they need. This leads to poor oxygen absorption. Not only is this unhealthy, but it also causes muscle aches and fatigue much faster in smokers than in non-smokers.

Even if the bloodstream was able to deliver and absorb adequate oxygen, the lungs of smokers are also less able to inhale oxygen to begin with. Airways become restricted, and mucus production increases as a person smokes, based on reports by the CDC. While the person may not be able to feel this restriction normally, during physical activity the lack of oxygen intake becomes much more pronounced and apparent. Those who smoke may find that they can’t exercise as long as their peers, even if they are the same age and overall fitness level.

For someone who is exercising for health, this presents a clear hindrance. For those who are trying to workout competitively, such as in high-cardio sports, will find the negative results even more present. Performance can be severely hindered by the use of tobacco products for those in high endurance sports, such as biking or running. Less oxygen is able to travel efficiently to the heart and lungs, resulting in greater risk of injury, shortness of breath, and decreased stamina.

How to Enhance Performance

While smoking, boosting performance may be impossible. Continuing with a workout program may help to certain degrees, but smokers are not likely to reach their full athletic potential until they give up tobacco products entirely. Exercise itself, however, may help with this, as staying busy and experiencing the endorphins resulting from exercise can help to prevent cigarette cravings. Additional measures can also be employed, such as nicotine replacement therapies, e-cigarettes, or certain prescription medications. Be sure to consult your doctor before beginning a new workout regimen while taking medication.