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Confessions of a Ex-Smoker: How I Quit Smoking with Exercise

June 12th, 2010 · 5 Comments ·
 
 

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This is a good guest post, written by one of MunFitnessBlog.com readers, Donna Moore, on how she managed to quit smoking after years of struggle.

If you are currently a smoker, and you were anything like me ten years ago before I quit, you may scoff at the idea of exercising. I smoked about two packs a day during my smoking heyday, and I’d laugh at anyone who was attempting to stay fit, especially since I hardly ever engaged in physical activity, and kept unhealthily slim mostly because I was malnourished as a result of nicotine appetite suppression. Eventually my inability to maintain a healthy weight had become serious, and I also developed severe kidney problems at a very young age. My doctor suspected that smoking was, at least partially, to blame. Long story short, after all of that, I decided that I really had to quit.

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I had tried quitting before, and I had used every method in the book. I tried patches, I tried the gum, and I even tried attending smoking cessation groups where we talked about our feelings and our childhoods. For every different method I used I can count at least five additional methods that my mind employed in order to undo the little progress I had accomplished with these “aides”. I learned that the mind, indeed, is the most powerful instrument in any life decision you will make, whether for good or ill. And then I tried exercising.

After about only a month of consistent exercise, my desire for nicotine was completely depleted. And, what’s more, I never felt better in my life. It really makes sense that exercise would be such an effective method of quitting smoking, simply because you can’t keep up a serious smoking habit and exercise consistently at the same time.

What’s more, the endorphins that the body produces when exercising—the chemicals that make you feel like a million bucks after a workout—are a perfect naturally-occurring, stress-relieving replacement of the stress-relief properties found in nicotine.

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For those of you who are in the process of quitting smoking and would like to try exercise to help you on your journey, I cannot recommend the method enough. Here are some tips that helped me.

1. Start By Taking Baby Steps.
If you are a smoker, especially a heavy one, exercise will be more difficult for you than other people, simply because your lung capacity will be markedly less than the average person. You won’t be able to handle a full-on workout, and if you try, you’ll only shoot yourself in the foot because you’ll feel exhausted, uninspired, and unmotivated. Start by exercising only every other day, or maybe three times a week.

2. Begin By Engaging In An Activity That You Truly Enjoy
If you have always had an aversion to gyms, then don’t go. Successfully implementing exercise as a smoking cessation tool is all about making you feel good, since the process is extremely difficult and letting go of your friend Nicotine can be depressing. If you already have it in your mind that exercise is silly, then you won’t want to do it consistently, especially if it’s in a very “exercise-y” environment like a gym. I personally really enjoyed tennis, so I started with that. In order to improve my game, I had to start running to become quicker on the court, so that was an additional powerful motivator. Eventually, I started going to the gym.

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3.  Drink Lots of Water, and Use a Straw
You’ll need the water to keep you hydrated while you exercise, and the straw has the added benefit of serving as an oral stimulator—something that many smokers are addicted to aside from the addiction to nicotine.

4. Don’t Go Cold Turkey With Smoking At First
A lot of people will swear by the cold turkey method, but many doctors advise against it, and it never worked for me. In the first week or two after you begin exercising, have a smoke whenever you feel like you really need it. But only the essential smokes. Don’t waste cigarettes on mindless activities like waiting on somebody or driving. You’ll notice that the more you exercise, the less you’ll want or “need” to smoke. As I had mentioned, after a month, I had no desire to smoke. Because my body was functioning better, and my metabolism was working faster with increased muscle mass, I would actually feel sick when I tried to smoke again.

Quitting smoking really is one of the most difficult things you will ever do you in your life, especially if you have been at it for a few years. But do yourself a favor and save your money instead of buying “quit smoking aides.” These aides are more like crutches, just like nicotine was for me. Exercise is the real deal.

Mun’s Comment: This guest post is contributed by Donna Moore, who writes on the topics of massage therapy training.  She welcomes your comments at her email donnamoore20@gmail.com.

I am looking for other fitness articles. If you think you can write an excellent post too, please let me know and I will be more than happy to have your post here.

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5 responses so far ↓
  • ross // Jun 12, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    Sounds like you have this whole giving up smoking thing sorted! My girlfriends mum is trying to give up so i will have to send her this link! Thanks

  • sn00py // Jun 12, 2010 at 11:49 PM

    i was a average smoker, and i agree with you after exercise will make you less addict and then totally quit.

  • Nick Rainey // Jun 15, 2010 at 3:51 AM

    I think exercise is an awesomely excellent way to quit smoking! Smoking makes it tough to breathe and when I workout I try to find ways to improve and quitting smoking is a big way to improve at the gym! Great article.

  • Michelle // Jun 21, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    Sounds like you have this whole giving up smoking thing sorted! My girlfriends mum is trying to give up so i will have to send her this link! Thanks

  • Brandon // Sep 6, 2010 at 7:23 AM

    Great post! Smoker for 15 years, I just started the C25k program and am starting my third week. Although I still smoke, I have cut down and not consciously but because my urges have decreased.

    Signed up for a 5k in a couple months, so I have set a goal that will also require me to quit smoking. Good inspiration!

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