Exercise for Quitting Smoking
Getting regular exercise can help improve your chances of quitting smoking. Dopamine is a hormone and neurotransmitter produced naturally in our bodies that plays a role in our mood and is associated with the "pleasure system" of our brain. One reason cigarette smoking can be psychologically addictive is because nicotine increases the level of dopamine in our brain. Physical activity can help increase dopamine production as well as produce "feel-good" hormones called endorphins. Plus, regular physical activity can help extend your life and help you manage your weight. Physical activity, particularly aerobic exercise, can help reduce the physiological symptoms of stress. Basically, it helps rid the body of the "bad chemicals" your body accumulates while under stress. In fact, research indicates that it may double your chance of quitting. So, what are you waiting for?How Do I Begin?First, talk with your health care provider before starting any new exercise routine. Start gradually. If you haven't exercised before, now is not the time to be "gung-ho" and enroll in a Boot Camp class. Exercise, along with quitting smoking, should be a lifestyle change, not just a temporary "quick fix." So, treat it more as a journey, rather than a destination to reach.
What to Do
Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 3-5 times a week. "Moderate-intensity" means 55-69% of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is 220-your age.
For example: If you are 40 years old, your max heart rate would be 180 beats per minute. Take 180x.55 and 180x.69 to get a heart rate range of 99-124 beats per minute while exercising.
Examples of aerobic activity are walking, biking, jogging, taking the stairs, step classes, swimming, and anything else that will raise your heart rate for an extended period of time.
Try to fit in 20-30 minutes of strengthening exercises 2-3 days each week. The benefit of strength training is that you will build lean muscles which will help you burn more calories, aiding in weight management. If you belong to a gym and haven't done any strength training before, it's a great idea to do a few sessions of personal training. A good trainer will help you with your technique which will lower your risk of injury. Don't worry; you don't have to belong to a gym to do strength training. Here are some ideas for strength training at home.
- Push-ups - if you can't do a full push up, put your knees down, or do a standing push-up against a wall. Shoot for 3 sets of 10-15.
- Wall squats - lean up against a wall and squat until your knees are at a 90 degree angle (be sure your knees don't go past your toes). Hold for 30-60 seconds at a time.
- Do bicep curls with soup cans, milk jugs or other weighted object. Do 3 sets of 10-15.
- Do shoulder presses with the same weighted objects.
- Do abdominal crunches during the commercials of your favorite TV show
Get creative with things around the house; you'd be surprised at what kind of a workout you can get in.
Finally, it's important to stretch most days of the week. Aim for 15-20 minutes (total) of gentle stretching of each muscle group. Hold each stretch (don't bounce) for 10-15 seconds at a time.
You don't have to belong to a gym to get fit. However, you may find that it's easier to get motivated when working out with others. Check with your insurance carrier about gym discounts. Many carriers offer a rebate or other discount if you use the gym x-times per month.
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