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Gradually work into exercising after quitting smoking

Gradually quitting smoking
Question: I recently quit smoking and want to start an exercise program. How do I slowly increase my cardiovascular ability?

Answer: When you smoke, your body’s metabolic system is elevated, including your heart rate and increased blood pressure. This sometimes can cause an elevated caloric expenditure, which will then decrease after quitting, so exercise is a great substitute.

The increase in metabolic rate is from the nicotine, which travels in your blood stream, causing an increase in the release of adrenaline, increasing heart rate. This increase in heart rate, however, can put you at a higher risk of a stroke.

Many chemicals in cigarettes circulate in your body and continue to affect the physiology of it for at least six to eight hours after you finish the cigarette.

Smoking causes a high amount of inflammation in your airways and bronchioles, so this often limits your ability to exercise intensely. Once you stop smoking, inflammation should decrease, and your ability to breathe in oxygen will be improved.

Exercise is a great way to increase your metabolic rate, increase caloric burn and improve health. If you are worried about gaining weight after you quit smoking, exercise can help prevent that.

You should easily progress into cardiovascular exercise. Remember, if you have been smoking and not exercising, your body and circulatory system is not accustomed to this stress. Start with a short duration, such as 20 minutes, at a low intensity, such as a walking pace, to get your body used to it. After a week or two, you can slowly increase your walking pace and try to extend your time to 30 or more minutes.

If you feel short of breath, slow down or take a short break, then get back to it. Aim to get at least three days of exercise a week. Once you feel like you are accomplishing this goal, increase your frequency by adding another one or two days. Also, try a variety of exercises to find ones you will enjoy.

If gaining weight is a concern, also consider what you are eating. Remember that smoking could have taken up much of your spare time before. Smoking often keeps your hands and mouth busy and can sidetrack you from eating. If you take the cigarettes away, you might discover the desire to eat more. As well, the desire to snack more could possibly be caused by a decrease in serotonin levels after you quit smoking.

By eating carbohydrate and fatty-rich meals, your serotonin levels would increase and make you feel better. These hormone levels will adjust back to normal eventually. If you feel increased cravings, make sure to have healthy snacks on hand, such as whole-wheat pretzels, all-natural peanut butter and fresh fruit.

Be kind to yourself. Quitting smoking is a huge success, and if you have been fairly sedentary, it will take time to increase your fitness levels. The good news is that quitting smoking will immediately cause improvements in your pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. Think positively about all that you have accomplished and how each day is a step to a healthier you.

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