While weight lifting is a good lifestyle choice for many, smokers may experience some negative effects such as injury, prolonged healing, or performance issues.
It should come as no surprise that smoking and physical activity do not mix well. While some assume this only affects the realm of cardiovascular exercises such as running or aerobics, weight training is equally affected by smoking. Although less strenuous in some aspects for the respiratory system, weight lifting still requires large amounts of oxygen to power the heart and muscles during a workout.
How Smoking Affects Weight Training
Cigarette smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide and chemicals, many of which are known carcinogens. These chemicals cause airway restriction, inflammation of the mucus membranes in the lungs, and excessive mucus production. Each of these reactions inhibits lung performance, according to BodyBuilding.com. This not only causes issues for the lungs and the heart, but it also affects the performance of the muscles. Normally oxygen is inhaled by the lungs and carried by the bloodstream throughout the body for delivery wherever it is needed. During acts of physical activity, the muscles require additional oxygen since they’re working harder. In smokers, the ability of the lungs to intake oxygen is hindered, which can lead to lowered performance and decreased oxygen absorption. This also leads to extreme fatigue.
Smokers are also more likely to have carbon monoxide being delivered to the muscles in place of oxygen, resulting in malabsorption of the oxygen which is inhaled. The results of this is a bigger reduction in performance and lowered endurance.
For those who are new to bodybuilding or fitness, this might initially mean sore muscles for longer periods, decreased healing time, and decreased motivation and drive. Serious athletes may find their performance before and during competitions does not meet their expectations. Those who are also aiming to reach a certain weight limit or size may find their goals are not attainable due to smoking. Smoking may also slow down the body’s ability to absorb some vitamins and protein, resulting in less muscle mass over time, according to Strong Lifts.
Implications for Weight Lifters who Smoke
While overall performance is well below standards for smokers, that doesn’t mean smokers shouldn’t take up weight lifting. There are numerous health benefits to any exercise, and weight lifting is no exception. It will increase muscle tone and respiratory function, at least to a certain degree. Some also find that the more they exercise, the less than want to smoke. This may be due to the endorphins, or “feel good” chemicals release by the brain during exercise. With the natural “high” of working out feeding the brain, lighting up may seem less beneficial.
Although exercise is generally okay for some semi-healthy smokers, those who smoke should still consult a doctor before beginning a weight lifting program. Smoking can lead to many life-threatening illnesses, such as lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. But, it can also cause chronic health conditions like asthma which may not be readily recognized or understood when they first begin exercising.
Increasing Weight Training Performance
Those who smoke and want to increase their weight lifting performance should quit right away. While this can be difficult for some, it is possible with the right tools.Weight lifting itself can help, as well as some nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), certain prescription medications, and e-cigarettes. Before opting for any prescription medications, talk with your doctor about your plans for beginning an exercise regimen. Dangerous side effects may result from exertion. NRTs, including e-cigarettes, are considered a safer alternative by many, and are easily purchased over the counter without a prescription.
For more motivation to quit smoking once and for all, visit The Real Cost of Smoking.
Read more about the effects cigarette smoke has on the human body at The Effects of Smoking.
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