Going Back to Healthy: How to Get Naturally Fit After You Quit
Regardless of your age or smoking history, it’s will always be a good decision to quit smoking.
The CDC states that upon quitting, smokers can reduce the risk of premature death and extend their life expectancy by as much as 10 years. But a 2022 study published in the JAMA Network Open emphasizes the additional health benefits of doing more than just quitting. Findings indicate that those who maintained a healthy lifestyle after quitting had an overall lower risk for all-cause and disease-specific mortality compared to those who were less adherent to lifestyle recommendations for diet and exercise.
While this doesn’t mean that you can easily reverse the damage from smoking, it tells you that you can still improve your health status and enhance your overall quality of life. With that being said, here are ways for former smokers to maximize the health benefits and get naturally fit after quitting.
Regulate alcohol intake
In the study linked above, excessive alcohol drinking was identified as one of the main triggers for smoking since the two activities are commonly done together. Thus, it’s best to go alcohol-free once you quit in order to prevent alcohol from lowering your inhibitions and causing a smoking relapse. Furthermore, the consumption of tobacco and alcohol share similar health risks like cardiovascular disease and oral cancers. Kicking both habits thus allows you to further lower these risk factors.
It’s understandable how mentally challenging it can be to quit two things at once, however. As such, you can first work on regulating your alcohol intake by making sure you have substitutes for tobacco and alcohol, like mocktails, chewing gum, mints, and candies whenever you go out with family and friends.
Do exercises for heart and lung health
Among the major organs damaged by long-term smoking are the heart and lungs, mainly by blocking blood flow in major arteries and damaging the airways. Therefore, the best exercises for former smokers are the ones that focus on improving heart and lung health.
For instance, walking helps with lowering blood pressure, improving circulation, and strengthening the heart and lungs. But a previous article shows that you can turn it up a notch by walking with weights. The added resistance not only boosts cardiovascular and respiratory endurance but also enhances your core strength. Other aerobic exercises, like running and jumping rope, can also keep your heart and lungs physically active in order to function efficiently.
Join a science-backed weight loss program
When smokers quit, the effect of nicotine withdrawal on the body leads to a slower metabolism and increased hunger. Yet research published in the scientific journal Nature found that smoking-related weight gain can also be linked to the microorganisms in the gut. The study reveals that tobacco smoke can modify certain microbiotas and enhance energy extraction from food, thus promoting weight gain.
This type of weight gain often holds smokers back from initiating and sustaining cessation efforts. However, you can join science-backed weight loss programs in order to effectively quit smoking while still maintaining a healthy weight. Through a customized meal plan, the focus of WeightWatchers is on portion control and nutritious choices rather than restriction. This enables you to maintain a healthy diet with equally healthy eating habits long after you quit smoking.
Increase your vitamin levels
Long-term active smoking has also been associated with oxidative stress, which then damages the epithelial cells and increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Fortunately, research published in the Nutrition and Public Health Journal has found that dietary vitamins C and E, and other nutrients like retinol and iron, have a protective role against smoking-induced oxidative stress and lung cancer risk. The most natural and effective way to increase these vitamin levels is to derive them from food sources. These include fruits rich in vitamin C and E, like mangos, kiwis, and oranges, as well as vegetables high in antioxidants, like broccoli, cabbage, and spinach.
Regaining your health after quitting smoking may not be a quick fix, but it can be facilitated by making changes in your diet and exercise routine as mentioned above. For more guides and resources on quitting, we have plenty of articles here at KillTheCan.org.