Staying Active Can Help You Stay Tobacco Free

Whether you’re in the process of quitting tobacco or have already quit, making physical activity a daily habit can help you fight cravings, avoid relapse, and feel better all over.

Get Active, Feel Great

Why exercise works:

  • Exercise affects the brain in positive ways — boosting mood, improving concentration, promoting learning, and relieving stress. Less stress means you are less likely to return to smoking.
  • Even walking briskly for 5-10 minutes has been shown to decrease nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Being physically active may help prevent weight gain during and after your quit program.
  • Regular bicycling, swimming, lifting weights and similar activities are healthy alternatives to tobacco use — and you can’t do these activities when you’re smoking.
  • Joining a group fitness class or working with a personal trainer is a fun way to get active. Professional instruction and support from your classmates or workout buddies will help keep you on track.
  • Getting involved with recreational sports offers companionship, social support, and fun — and helps keep your mind off tobacco. Quitting tobacco will enhance your sports performance.
  • Studies show that physical activity as a part of a tobacco quit plan predicts long-term abstinence, possibly due to improvements in mood and self-efficacy.

Getting Started with Exercise

Note: Talk with your health care provider before starting an exercise program or increasing the intensity of your current program, especially if you have a long-term health condition like heart disease, emphysema, diabetes, or asthma.

Research is mixed on whether tobacco users should start exercising before, during, or after quitting. So think about exercises you enjoy that can also help you quit tobacco.

  • Start an exercise program before your quit date: This way you can adjust to one new behavior at a time. You can become comfortable with your new exercise routine, and then adjust to your life as a non-smoker.
  • You can start exercising while actively quitting smoking. This way you can use exercise as a way to conquer nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Become more active after you quit. People who become more active after quitting tobacco may be more confident about staying active in the long run.
  • Use a pedometer to track your daily steps and gradually increase to 10,000 steps a day for good health.
  • Gradually work up to 180 minutes a week of cardiovascular activity. That works out to about 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.
  • Perform strength-training exercises twice a week.
  • Select an activity that you enjoy. Consider walking, bicycling, hiking, jogging, or water exercise. If sports hold more interest for you, try tennis, basketball, or racquetball.

Maintaining an Active, Healthy Lifestyle

Developing and sticking to an exercise routine is important but so is simply becoming more physically active in your daily life. Use these 10 tips and strategies to make moving more and sitting less a normal part of your daily routine:

  • 1
    Avoid sitting as much as possible. Stand up and pace when you’re on the phone, listening to the radio, or even watching television. At work, try holding your next meeting outdoors and walk around the block with your coworkers while you talk.
  • 2
    Try active commuting. Walking or bicycling to work at least part of the way is a great way to build physical activity into your day and relieve stress.
  • 3
    Try things out. If you’re new to exercise, try several fitness activities or sports to see what strikes your fancy. Choosing activities that are fun for you will increase your odds of sticking with them.
  • 4
    Be active with your family. Find activities you can do with your family like bike riding, tennis, hiking, and just playing tag. Besides setting a great example for your kids, it’ll get you and your spouse or partner off the couch and out the door.
  • 5
    Put activity on your social calendar. Meet a friend for a walk, jog, or whatever activity you both like. Invite another family to go hiking with yours on the weekend. Sign up for dance lessons. Host a neighborhood table tennis tournament.
  • 6
    Try relaxing exercises. Try yoga, Pilates, tai chi, or other mind-body activities for relaxation and fitness.
  • 7
    Be prepared. Keep a pair of walking shoes at work, and walk during breaks whenever possible. Worried about sweating? Bring a spare shirt and tidy up in the restroom with baby wipes or a washrag.
  • 8
    Have a buddy. Invite your co-workers to join you for a daily or weekly lunchtime walk — it’s more fun that way and they’ll keep you accountable.
  • 9
    Volunteer. Giving your time to others not only feels great but can be good for your body too. Find a service project that requires some manual labor and activity and get out there!
  • 10
    Compete a little. Register for a fun walk or run with a friend or family member. Train for it together, and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as you cross the finish line.