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Published on: 17-Apr-2023

It is common knowledge that smoking is bad for your health. However, many people still don’t know just how many aspects of your life are affected by regular smoking and nicotine intake. When it comes to working out and your fitness, smoking can have numerous adverse effects that will not only slow your progress, but in some cases, halt it completely. 

Hinders Workout Performance 

Regarding overall workout performance, people who smoke tend to drastically underperform compared to those who do not. Not only are smokers’ heart rates higher, making performing to their full potential harder, but they also have decreased blood flow. 

When we exercise, we need blood to reach our muscles to ensure that they are energized and oxygenated. If you have restricted blood flow, your muscles will end up feeling more tired quicker than usual. Replacing cigarettes with nicotine prescriptions is a great way to start reversing these problems. 

Lowers Testosterone Levels 

Smoking can drastically decrease your testosterone levels, which will, in turn, lessen your muscle growth and development. Studies have also shown that long-term smoking can also lead to the degradation of muscles. 

Smoking can also severely damage the testosterone-producing cells in our bodies. When your testosterone levels become too low, muscle is replaced with fat; for men, this often happens in the chest area. 

Raises Cortisol 

Surprisingly, smoking has been shown to increase cortisol levels. Cortisol is the chemical responsible for stress, and when cortisol levels are increased, it lowers testosterone production and therefore lowers your athletic performance. 

Makes you Insulin Resistant 

Insulin is an important factor when it comes to building and maintaining muscle. When you smoke, your body becomes more and more insulin resistant, which not only slows your muscle growth but can also lead to diabetes. 

Shortness of Breath

Smoking causes the lungs to severely underperform and not process oxygen as efficiently as they would if they were inside of a non-smoker. Shortness of breath can lead to smokers feeling incredibly tired much quicker than they would have if they weren’t smokers. 

Other Side Effects

In addition to the problems listed above, smoking can have a detrimental effect on almost every part of your body and is linked to many other illnesses.  


Cancer is one of the biggest issues associated with smoking, and also the most common disease among all smokers. What may be shocking to many is how many different types of cancer are caused by smoking. Smoking can cause cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, bladder, bowel, cervix, kidneys, liver, stomach, pancreas, and lungs. 

Blood Circulation

Considering that smoking damages your blood vessels and therefore impacts your blood circulation, as well as the health of your heart. This can lead to a variety of very serious conditions. Poor heart health and decreased circulation can increase your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and cerebrovascular disease. 

Dental Health

Smoking can destroy your teeth and gums. Not only will it weaken the enamel on your teeth, making it easier to develop cavities and chips, but it can also lead to you developing sores and abscesses in your mouth. One of the less serious but still impactful problems is that smokers will develop bad breath and yellowing of their teeth. 

Skin Health

Smoking has multiple effects on the skin, but a few of the most common is it increases your chances of developing outbreaks or acne, you lose elasticity and will look older much sooner in life, and you will also develop wrinkles much earlier in life too. 

Weakened Immune System

Many studies have shown that smokers are more likely to get sick and stay sick for longer compared to non-smokers. This is because smoking will cause your immune system to become weaker and therefore makes it easier for you to get sick. 

As mentioned already, the bigger problem is that smokers stay sick for longer, which means they are more likely to develop more severe conditions, such as a cold or the flu turning into pneumonia. A weakened immune system, compared with restricted blood flow, can also lead to smokers finding it far harder to heal wounds. Even something as small as a scab can take much longer to heal because the body isn’t in the best condition to fix it. 

This becomes an even bigger problem if a smoker is to undergo surgery, as a more serious wound caused by an operation can become infected easily if it doesn’t heal fast enough. 

Hair Health

Another interesting and unexpected side effect of smoking is developing problems with your hair. Some studies have shown that smokers tend to go grey earlier and quicker in life, while others tend to have dry, unhealthy hair and scalp. 

Hearing Loss

Smoking can also cause a loss of hearing. Smoking affects the flow of the blood to the inner ear, and because of this, the inner ear becomes damaged over time, with hearing slowly worsening. 

In some more severe cases, a complete loss of hearing can occur as the inner ear becomes too damaged to function. 

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to enhance your overall fitness and health, it’s time to stop smoking. Science shows that smoking can have numerous adverse effects that will not only impede your fitness goals, but quite possibly seriously affect your health.  

The post Time To Quit: How Smoking Impacts Fitness appeared first on Sports Medicine Weekly By Dr. Brian Cole.