T Nation

Smoking and Exercise


I posted in another thread, my theory that aerobic exercise should be avoided by smokers. I freely admit that I have no proof to back this up, and couldn't even find any reference to it on the net.

However, my buddy had a heart attack and died, after taking up running, shortly after quitting smoking. A guy from my work just had a stroke ( guy might be around 45 years old ). This guy was a smoker, and had apparently just run a marathon about a week ago. Now how the hell you can run a marathon if you smoke is beyond me.

Another guy from my work, was a heavy smoker and a hardcore aerobic exerciser, he rode his bike everywhere he went, and claimed to have a high performance body ( guy is a self-absorbed cocksucker ). He got pneumonia, lost about 20 lbs, that he couldn't afford to lose, and has looked like shit ever since.

So, my question is, what are your opinions about cardio and smoking?

\|/ 3Toes


You said that aerobic exercises should be avoided by smokers. I agree. I also think that people who do aerobic exercises should avoid smoking.

I knew a guy who was a smoker and he wanted to start exercising, so he did. His first day on the treadmil he fell to the floor, was rushed to the hospital and it was diagnosed as a colapsed lung. Now if he ever has another smoke, he'll probably die.

Marlboro Reds, my weakness.
Kir Dog


Just a contrary opinion, and I don't pretend to speak for people who've been smoking for years and just now starting to exercise. But I smoke pretty frequently, and although I know it's a bad habit, I do it anyway. I feel like continuing to exercise aerobically is a good way to minimize the negative effects on my lungs. I grant, I probably won't be smoking much past college, but even so, cutting off aerobic exercise just seems like a terrible idea to me.


The best thing to do is to quit, I smoked for 12yrs then quit 3yrs ago. Since then my weight training has gone ahead with leaps and bounds. I feel 100% more healthier and enjoy life in general a lot more. If I can do it, anyone can.


Heart attack buddy : clogged arteries from smoking, increased atherosclerotic plaque instability, exercise, plaque emboli, heart attack. Even non-smokers can get this, exercise should be gradual. (You try to get heart patients out and ASAP post-MI, low intensity cardio and slowly increasing). Besides, smoking increases sudden death risks significantly

Strokes: Everybody can get them. Smoking increases your risk drastically.

Pneumonia, smoking 20+ cigs a day triples your risk of acquiring pneumonia.

Basic principle, stop smoking or increase your exercise. Just like thin sedentary and overweight very active inidividuals have the same heart disease level, you try to compensate. Besides your buddy with the MI during exercice, the other 2 cases have no link with exercise in general

For heart disease overall, smoking and blood lipids (more so LDL-c) are the 2 main factors in reducing your cardiovascular risk.

Want to calculate yours?


They are various types of such calculators, some more refined then others.



I've noticed that when I don't smoke my recovery time is at least 20-30% quicker - less soreness, etc. Also, routines with any volume at all are much easier and therefore much more effective.

The poster who said smokers shouldn't aerobicize I think is right. You'll see all these horror stories about collapsed lungs and heart attacks. This may apply mostly to 25 and over folks, considering that the militaries of the last century have managed to march and puff away . . .


So your thesis is that if you smoke, you should avoid cardio? Surely a smoker who exercises is healthier than a smoker who does not. Furthermore, your idea is really ass-backwards. An exerciser should avoid smoking, not the other way round.


No, I don't think it should. They would just be in worse shape by being sedentary and could very well have more health problems sooner. Quitting is what really should be done, but exercise shouldn't be avoided for those who haven't yet.


Makes the most sense . . .


Thats right up there with being too fat to exercise. I've been on and off smoking for a few years, and mtn. bike with people who don't. I can hang in there on long or steep hill climbs prety well, better than any who don't exercise or smoke. One guy said that the unfortunate part is that I would be realy good minus the smoking. Although I should quit smoking, it would be silly to give up lifing and riding.


I smoke but, not everyday and usually about 3-5 cigs on the days that I do smoke. I quit doing aerobic exercise because I think smoking defeats the purpose plus I am trying to bulk up. Someone made a good point about the military. When I was in the Marines about 75 percent of the guys in my Infantry platoon smoked and they could still pull off a 12 mile hump with close to 100 pounds strapped to their backs. OORAH!


I agree that it may apply to 25 and over, as you can get away with just about anything in your youth. If you look at the health of WWII vets in their later years, you'd likely find a huge array of smoking related illnesses. I still believe that cardio accelerates the damage done by smoking.

A very casual 3 - 5 cigarettes on some days, is very different from a pack a day, ( or more ) every day I think, too.

And ya, this would probably go without saying. "An exerciser should avoid smoking"

It's still my hypothesis that a smoker should avoid cardio until he's quit for awhile.

\|/ 3Toes


And do you have any evidence whatsoever that would back this up?


there is a psychological aspect to this too: generally speaking, smokers are headstrong individuals. they know the facts, but dammit they are going to smoke because they want to.

these same individuals are likely to ignore their body's warnings when they step onto the treadmill for a 60 min incline sprint session, because dammit they are going to finish their exercise session.


Nothing earth shattering here, though very mild activity SHOULD be engaged in (if previously sedentary) immediately and gradually increased as the person gets farther and farther away from the quit date.

Not just what most people think of as cardio, though, any heavy exertion should be avoided for the previously sedentary person who smoked a significant amount.



Nope. I wish I did. I think the replies here are mixed. All are just opinions, I don't think there's any real evidence to the contrary either.

I realize that you are being facetious with that remark, however, I think there's alot of truth to it. Consider a 400 lb guy, who's been sitting on his ass for 20 years, eating Big Macs. You put that guy on a stairclimber for 30 mins, and he's almost guaranteed to have a coronary, isn't he? So, he should probably drop a hundred lbs or so before he even thinks about cardio. Unless you call a walk around the block cardio?

\|/ 3Toes


Any very unfit undividual no matter what the cause of the unfitness should start with minimal easy exercise and GRADUALLY increase. I have yet to see anyone say a good reason why a smoker [especially if they're younger] who is decently fit and can exercise at a higher level should not. And they exist. Some are on this site. A smoker who routinely does interval training and can run the same times as a nonsmoker is probably at greater risk for a heart problem during exercise, but they are still most likely at greater risk by being sedentary. A doctor should be able to shed some light on this. I doubt they tell their smoking patients not to exercise, particuarly if they are younger, at a normal weight, and eat healthy.


A walk around the block would be cardio for him. And he should do it. And as he's losing weight and becoming fitter, do two blocks. And then 3. And then 4. And so on and so forth. The exercise will help lose weight as would resistance training. Hopefully, said person will ultimately be able to do a 'real' cardio workout and real weight training.