Patient Handout: Physical Activity

Details how ex-smokers are successful at quitting by getting involved in some kind of regular physical activity.

Do you find it hard to believe that exercise (something that is active) can help you quit smoking (something that is passive)? It's true. A lot of ex-smokers are successful at quitting by getting involved in some kind of regular physical activity.

Question: How do I know what kind of exercise to do?

Answer: Any kind of physical activity that you enjoy and don't associate with smoking is a good place to start. But if you have health problems or you have been a smoker for years, talk to your doctor first. It's also a good idea to talk with a fitness trainer to help you design the right exercise program for you. Some suggestions are dancing, brisk walking, skiing, swimming, and bicycling.

Question: How would I benefit from exercise?

Answer: Smoking raises your blood pressure, but exercising helps bring your blood pressure back down to normal. Smoking makes plaque clog your arteries, but exercise slows that process down. Exercise helps your body heal once you quit smoking. Also, many smokers worry about gaining weight when they quit. Exercise helps you control your weight because you're burning calories. Of course, you also have to be careful about what you eat. You don't want to replace your cigarettes with high-calorie, high-fat foods.

Physical Activity

Question: How often should I exercise?

Answer: Ideally you should work out at least 5 times a week. Many new ex-smokers prefer to work out more to help relieve stress.

Question: I'll be under enough stress just from quitting smoking. So won't exercising just give me more to get stressed out about?

Answer: No. As long as you get involved in exercise that you can handle and that won't send you home with sore muscles, you should find that exercising is a tremendous stress reliever. It will make you feel both physically and emotionally better. And as you get into the swing of things, you'll be able to do more vigorous physical activity. You may find that quitting smoking leads you to playing a sport that becomes a lifetime hobby.

Question: I'm already so tired at the end of the day. How am I supposed to find the energy to work out?

Answer: You'll be surprised to find out that exercising gives you new energy. For some people, getting to the gym is a challenge when they feel exhausted; but once they're there, they're glad they went.

(Sources: ACS, 2003)

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