Healthy Living in the North

Keep Your Breath

A man rides a bike

Smoking will be detrimental to your physical performance.

I have to admit, it’s been a great summer. The decent weather has let me ride my bike to work often and encouraged me to work towards my goal of running five kilometers. With all this exercise, I’m feeling great.

But it’s not going to last forever, the decent weather that is. When it’s cold and wet, the last thing I want to do is go for a run or hop on my bike. Fortunately for me, hockey is just around the corner. For others, sports such as basketball, racquetball, squash, volleyball, indoor badminton and floor hockey may be appealing ways to keep active over the winter.

Typically, when you think of these activities, you don’t think of smoking, but how often do you see someone having a smoke outside the arena or recreation center? Some of the guys I’ve played hockey with have told me that a smoke before the game “picks them up” and “helps them focus.” However, smoking is not going to help your game in the end.

A 2013 study of female university athletes looked at the effect of smoking on athletic performance. In this study, 12 smokers and 21 non-smokers were asked to perform stress tests and six shuttle run tests to determine the impacts of smoking on aerobic capacity and anaerobic capacity.* What the researchers found was:

  • During shuttle runs four to six, the smokers’ average power decreased significantly.
  • Non-smokers were able to take in and use more oxygen during intense exercise.
  • The smoking group was less capable of dealing with fatigue.
  • Smoking impaired the athletes’ ability to recover after high intensity exercise.

Another study that examined the effect of smoking on the cardiovascular system noted a 10% decrease in the time smokers could exercise before becoming exhausted. This was attributed to a lack of available oxygen to the muscles.

Sports like hockey, basketball and racquetball all require short, intense bursts of speed and/or power that are anaerobic in nature. As the studies show, smoking has a negative impact on our body’s ability to absorb and use oxygen. This results in a loss of power, endurance, and a decreased ability to recover from intense activity.

If you have a quick smoke before the game, it’s going to catch up with you. In the second or third period, you’ll be gasping for air on the bench between shifts and lagging behind the play when you’re on the ice. That awe-inspiring, highlight reel move is going to be harder to pull off when the power in your legs is used up in the first half of the game.

Is that bit of a pick-up worth a weak finish? I don’t think so.

If you or some you know wants to quit using tobacco, they can receive free counselling and free nicotine replacement products through provincial programs.

*Anaerobic exercises are done with maximum intensity for short bursts (i.e. sprinting) where the energy requirement of the body exceeds that provided by breathing, and therefore, the body is forced to work without oxygen.  Aerobic exercises are the ones where oxygen is used to produce energy in order to fuel the body for a prolonged activity (i.e., marathon running)

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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