Is Smoking Holding You Back?

It’s that time of year again: the time to assess the past year and look to the future. If you are reading this newsletter, improving or maintaining your fitness is likely to be high on your list of resolutions for 2010. But are vices like smoking holding you back? Smoking can reduce your fitness indirectly through smoking related illnesses or more directly by limiting the amount of oxygen available to the body.

When we breathe air into our lungs oxygen is transported in the blood by attaching to the haemoglobin within red blood cells.

Haemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells and its primary role is to transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. But when carbon monoxide is present in the lungs it is more likely to attach to the haemoglobin, decreasing the amount of oxygen red blood cells are able to carry. This in turn increases your respiratory rate in order to deliver enough oxygen to cells, and it has a significant effect on the heart and other working muscles where there is a high demand for oxygen.

Cigarette smoke also causes air passages to narrow. Tar coats the lungs reducing elasticity of the air sacs where oxygen is absorbed into the blood stream. Tar and other chemicals also affect the cleansing mechanism of the lungs by paralysing the cilia (these are tiny hair-like structures that line the airways that clean out dust and dirt). Damage to the cilia means mucus and toxic substances accumulate resulting in congestion of the lungs.

The decrease in the carrying capacity of haemoglobin and narrowing of air passages result in reduced lung capacity and restrict the amount of oxygen to be transferred into our lungs, having a very negative effect on fitness performance.

However, it is never too late to quit, getting more out of your training and life! By quitting you will feel the benefits straight away as your body begins to repair itself. The following benefits are likely to be noticed:

  • After 24 hours the level of carbon monoxide in your blood stream will dramatically drop and more oxygen will be present;
  • Within a month your blood pressure returns to its normal level;
  • Within 2 months your lungs will no longer be producing extra phlegm causing reduced congestion and lung irritation.
  • Not only will stopping smoking have major health benefits but it can help you achieve a higher fitness level and performance.

For more information on health benefits and quitting please contact your GP or the QUIT website at www.quit.org.au.

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