I bet you didn’t know you could quit smoking with exercise but now, you know. And it’s not just a lame suggestion but a highly researched and documented recommendation for people who want to quit smoking. Several researchers have over the years explored the benefits of exercise to smoking cessation and recommended it for intending quitters.
They base their recommendation on findings suggesting that exercise reduces cigarette cravings and makes smoking less desirable, because smoking and exercise give the same high effects – they stimulate and excite the brain. As such, they cannot co-exist. It’s either smoking will send exercise packing or exercise will send smoking packing.
When we talk about exercise here, a simple walk around the block, an early morning jog, or visit to the gym are all we’re talking about. But one thing is, you must sweat for the exercise to do your body some good. Sweating in itself is good as you tend to release nicotine toxins through it.
Now, talking about the scientific researches on this subject, a University of Exeter research in 2009 revealed that exercise can reduce nicotine cravings as results from a series of studies show that smokers report reduced cigarette cravings after exercising.
Benefits of Exercise to Smoking cessation
Exercise is beneficial to the stop smoking process in the following ways:
- Giving up smoking creates a vacuum but exercise is a great substitute to fill the vacuum because it takes the mind of intending quitters off the need to smoke
- Exercise rids the body of nicotine toxins which have accumulated as a result of years of smoking
- Exercise reduces nicotine cravings by distracting smokers from needing a cigarette
- Exercise gives the body the same ‘high’ that smoking gives, so, the intending quitter doesn’t feel the need to smoke after exercise
- Exercising makes quitting easier and a relapse, less likely. That’s the result of a big new study, which examined the habits and health of 434,190 people in Taiwan from the year 1996 to 2008. According to the study, smokers who had just 15 minutes of exercise daily were 55 percent more likely to quit than those who weren't involved in any form of exercise. And those active smokers were 43 percent less likely to go back to smoking when they eventually quit
- And even for smokers who are yet to quit, exercise offers them some benefits as just 15 minutes of walking six days a week allegedly improves life expectancy in smokers. This is according to another study published 2011 in The Lancet.
Tips on How to Use Exercise to Quit Smoking
- Exercise is best done in the mornings. Scheduling your exercise for evenings is not ideal as you’ll be tired and unable to commit to an exercise regimen.
- Like I earlier said, your exercise may not be at a gym but round the block in your neighbourhood or just an early morning jog. The most important thing is to commit to it, in the full sense of the word.
- Consistency is key to using exercise to quit smoking. Without consistency, you can’t pull through smoking cessation with exercise. By consistency, I mean committing to your exercise program each and every day. If you’ve decided to do 30 minutes of exercise daily, do it everyday, without exception. There’s no point avoiding the exercise for days and suddenly waking up one day and deciding to do two hours exercise at a stretch. It just won’t work. In fact, you’re setting yourself up for failure that way.
- If you ask me, I’d say start your exercise regimen before you even quit smoking as it would help you form the habit before you eventually quit. And when you eventually quit and have to deal with so many challenges, you’d find getting up and exercising a breeze because you already got used to it.
- You can make your exercise time fun by getting a friend involved. It makes it easy to handle and also keeps you motivated and accountable.
- You can also spice up your exercise routines by engaging in a variety of exercies, to avoid boredom. But, if you realize you like a particular exercise, just keep doing it.
- Talk to your doctor before engaging in it. Once you’re given a clean bill of health, you can get on the exercise bandwagon.
- Remember that enforcing your will power will come into play with full force for you to succeed with exercising
What Exercises Are Beneficial to Quit Smoking?
I’ll divide this into physical and psychological exercises. Physical exercises are the ones that will make you break a sweat, such as, swimming, jogging, running, climbing stairs, cycling, dancing, vigorous housework, etc.
Psychological exercises involve thinking through your quit smoking resolve and deciding how you’re going to cope with cravings before they start hitting you intermittently. They also involve meditation and getting a mental balance before your quit smoking d-day. They also involve deciding who to tell about your stop smoking decision and how to tell them and even handle questions and objections from them.
Summary and Action Takeaway
If you’ve decided to quit smoking cold turkey (abrupt cessation and without medication), you can engage exercise to help you pull through your initial tough times. Consuming lots of fruits and vegetables will be of great help, ditto, drinking gallons of water (sorry, I mean, drinking a lot of water).
But, if you’ve decided to go through the gradual cessation route, through a nicotine patch, gum or lozenge, just know that you will still find exercise helpful (you might however consult your doctor before engaging in it). And if you’re able to successfully pull through the quit smoking process, savour the joys of a new you and relish the health benefits of smoking cessation.
As you go over the tips I've given you in this article, I want to quickly introduce you to a best-selling stop smoking book. It's written by Allen Carr, a former chain smoker. It goes to the root causes of the smoking habit and how to get over it. It deals with the myths and delusions of smoking (such as, 'I smoke to relax', or 'I smoke to belong'). He addresses each and everyone of these myths, counteracting them in a clear and lucid way. You just have to read this book to successfully quit smoking.
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(price as of Sep 29, 2013)