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Social Smoking: Does It Affect Your Running?

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A vice is only fun because you partake in it every once in a while. If it were something we did on a regular basis it often could be considered more of a problem than something as endearing as a vice. Vices can range from indulging in a huge cheeseburger and fries or swearing to a glass of wine. Certain vices have almost no repercussions on your runs like swearing when you stub your toe, others need to be monitored so they remain fun and not unhealthy, like the amount of birthday cake we eat. Others could have immediate results like smoking. What about the occasional cigarette when you are out at a Happy Hour or socially smoking a cigar with a good glass of wine? What, if any, are the effects on our run the next day or even the next week? Does social smoking affect your running?

If you think smoking only “a little,” is no big deal, you might need a little more information. Light, social or sporadic smoking is safer than heavy smoking but it still causes harm to almost every part and system of your body. A social smoker is someone who does not smoke on a regular basis but who smokes in specific social or stressful situations on a regular basis. It’s been shown that men are more likely to engage in this behavior and is highest among 21- to 30-year-olds, followed by 31- to 40-year-olds.

Since the 1960s there has been a decrease in smokers but there is an uptick of social smokers. Social smoking was, at one point, considered a stage of quitting. Now it is seen as a form of smoking.  A quarter of smokers today are social smokers and often don’t identify themselves as a smoker and might even be offended by the label.

One confusing item about social smokers is the person’s nicotine dependence.  Nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarette smoke. The physical withdrawal symptoms are why people go back to cigarettes. Some social smokers smoke every day and others can go a great length of time without lighting up, but have an intense urge to do so when the mood strikes.

Most social smokers don’t consider themselves smokers and feel they can quit any time they want since they “choose” when to smoke. When it comes to stopping even social smoking, it’s like running, everyone is different. Some have an easier time quitting and others have just as much of an issue.

Denial can be part of the problem.  You might think you’re not addicted however find yourself reaching for a reserve pack or bumming off a friend at specific times, you do have a dependence or even habit.  It’s been shown nicotine dependence shows up even in those who only smoke occasionally, and increases with the frequency of smoking. Note the situations where you smoke. Do you reach for a cigarette when you are stressed? Do you smoke with certain people? Do you need a cigarette when you have a cup of coffee or drink alcohol?

Nicotine replacement could be appropriate even for light smokers. Social smokers under the impression that it isn’t harmful to their health may find the motivation to stop for good by the fact that their smoke harms others.

The Effect on Your Body

Even a little smoking can increase all the diseases and conditions associated with “regular” smoking like heart-related issues, multiple types of cancers, respiratory infections, fertility issues in both sexes, slower recovery from injuries, cataracts, and frailty. Smoking just one cigarette a day increases the risk of heart-related health issues almost as much as smoking an entire pack a day and running doesn’t “cancel out” the effects.

Most people don’t realize that each drag there are severe and instantaneous effects on your heart. Simply taking a pull off your first drag makes your metabolism change.  Smoking makes your blood’s platelets clump together causing a potential clot that could cause a heart attack or stroke. Smoking results in your nervous system getting a rush of adrenaline. Causing your blood pressure and heart rate to increase and results in taxed breathing all while resting, imagine what your body feels later when running.

People who smoke less than one cigarette a day over their entire lives were more likely to die early than people who’d never lit up. One of the biggest areas of concern with social smoking is that most people don’t remain a “part-time smoker”. Even occasional smoking can affect the functioning of arteries in otherwise healthy runners and people.

Studies show that social smoking is a no small deal. It is an adjustable behavior that leads to negative effects on the cardiovascular system. Social smokers face very similar cardiovascular risks as people who light up regularly.

Your Runs

The effects of social smoking on your health are not minor and are going to directly effect on your run. With immediate results affecting respiratory, nervous and cardiovascular systems runs are going to suffer and won’t be pleasant. Aside from the known blood contaminants Nicotine, smoking increases the carbon monoxide in your blood reducing oxygen and causes chronic swelling of the mucous membranes of the airways.

An occasional cigarette or cigars seems harmless but the negative effects on your health are staggering and ones that cannot be counteracted by running. Besides if you are having issues with your lungs and heart you are not going to run very far. Seems like steering completely clear from smoking is the best way to ensure you see as many finish lines as you want.

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