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How Long Until Smoking Causes You to Become Completely Out of Shape?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

I previously discussed two great ways to ensure that you won’t quit smoking. By following those methods, I was a regular, heavy smoker throughout my 20s. Most know the health effects of cigarette smoking, but what are the real effects on one’s fitness?

Before the Age of 30

This is just my story, of course, but my experience was that smoking did not completely kill all of my athletic ability, at least immediately. Before the age of 30, I could still play a tennis match, and I could still play a game of basketball. I would typically be more winded than I was before I smoked, for obvious reasons, but I did not feel as if I were dying by the end of those games.

After 30

There was something about the age of 30 when I saw a change for the worst. I played a pickup basketball game a few months after turning 30 after not playing for a while. I constantly had to ask for someone to replace me on the court. I assumed things would get better over time, but I played for nearly two months and was never able to play as much as I had before. Of course, I kept smoking.

I was still smoking heavily when I converted from smoking cigarettes to dipping tobacco at the age of 31. I know the Surgeon General reported that he could not “conclude that the use of any tobacco product is a safer alternative to smoking,” and my experience was that I did not see any improvement in my health once I had quit. In fact, it got worse.

It Got Worse

At age 35, I attempted to play a tennis match in 90-degree weather. It was part of a tournament, and I wanted to win. I won the first set at 6-1. It was 1-1 in the second set when I nearly collapsed on the court. I fought through as best I could, but I was sweating profusely, but despite holding a 2-1 lead in the second set, I had to retire.

I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t having a heat stroke. I was simply out of shape.

Nothing got better quickly, either. I tried to pick up swimming, but I could barely finish five laps. I tried cardio training at the YMCA, but my pulse shot up above 170 during warm-up. When I tried to work out under any circumstance, I would be sick for an hour or more afterward, and I really wasn’t exerting myself that much. I was, as I’ve written before, I was a long way away from having been a college athlete, and I had become a heart attack waiting to happen.


I’ve also written before that this is not me any more. How I got myself back into shape is the subject of a different article.



Feb 8, 2012 11:49am
It all goes downhill after 30. I've never been a smoker, but my general health has taken a nosedive in the 15 years since I turned 30. My wife, who is a smoker, is about to turn 40, and she is experiencing the same problems, although on a grander scale due to her smoking.
Feb 8, 2012 12:37pm
I think we become so accustomed to our bodies being resilient and practically elastic before 30 that we are not ready to do what we must do once we slow down. My wife continued to smoke after I had quit, and her experiences were much like mine.
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