GET FIT AND KICK THE HABIT

  1. Naturally increases metabolism

According to the National Centre for Health Statistics, nicotine artificially raises your metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn within a 24-hour period) by twenty per cent. So when you quit, your metabolism returns to what it really should be.

Getting firmer, stronger muscles by doing regular physical activity like cycling and walking is a much healthier way of increasing your metabolic rate.

  1. Controls weight gain

One of the scariest things about quitting smoking is the fear of gaining weight. A slower metabolism after quitting, combined with an improvement in taste and smell, a tendency to substitute food for cigarettes and emotional eating to relieve the stress of quitting can all result in weight gain of anywhere between five and ten pounds for the average smoker.

The combination of eating more calories while burning less means that regular physical activity is crucial. Aerobic exercise like walking, cycling, swimming or dancing for 30 minutes a day at a low-intensity will burn anything between 100-300 calories depending on the intensity and duration of your exercise.

Smokers who philosophise that smoking keeps them slim may also need to consider that nicotine causes body fat to be distributed to the upper body and abdominal area or in an ‘apple’ shape – which is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and early death.

  1. Suppresses appetite

Stub out cigarettes and you can guarantee human nature will have you automatically reaching for the biscuit tin instead. Just like your regular rugby match, kicking a habit is always a game of substitution. But exercise is a natural way to temporarily suppress appetite because it regulates sugar levels in your blood. This in turn reduces the cravings for sweets and junk foods which we might bring onto the pitch to replace cigarettes.

  1. Offers relief from nicotine cravings

Take a ten minute brisk walk every time the nicotine cravings come calling, and fitness levels will soon be soaring. Physical activity can help take the ‘edge’ off nicotine cravings by bringing temporary relief until they pass.

Exercise improves blood circulation, so just a ten-minute walk can produce chemical endorphins in the brain which create a sense of well-being – the same ‘buzz’ smokers get from filling their lungs with smoke.

Regular physical activity is also a cheaper and more maintainable way of curbing the cravings for those who don’t want to use nicotine replacement therapy.