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Whether you smoke a casual cigarette on a night out or you’re hitting your vape multiple times per day, you probably know: Smoking isn’t great for you. But beyond the general effects of smoking, how does it impact your performance in the pool?

Read on for a breakdown of what happens to your body when you smoke and what it does to your swimming performance.

Different Types of Smoking

Smoking goes beyond cigarettes these days. One in five high school students vapes, and 1.3 billion people around the world use tobacco products in some form. 

Despite this widespread usage, tobacco kills 50% of its users, and every year smoking kills more than 8 million people, according to the World Health Organization. That’s more than war, guns, car accidents and alcohol combined! 

Elsa Olofsson via Unsplash

Here’s an overview of a few popular types of smoking:

  • Cigarettes: The most common form of tobacco consumption. Can also contain flavors and herbs to change the taste of the smoke.
  • Vapes or eCigarettes: Come in various fruity flavors, and are very attractive to younger people. Most vapes (even those that say they are nicotine-free), contain nicotine.
  • Cigars: One small cigar is approximately equal to smoking 1.5 cigarettes. The average cigar contains around 100mg of nicotine.
  • Hookah: A form of tobacco smoking that originated in Persia and India 400+ years ago. 60 minutes of hookah is equal to smoking 40-400 cigarettes.
  • Marijuana: Marijuana contains the psychoactive compound THC, which results in the “high” that smokers feel. Can be smoked in a pipe, bong, or joint. Can also be consumed via edible products.

What’s in a Cigarette?

Despite their small size, cigarettes contain thousands of harmful chemicals:

  • Tar: A mix of over 7,000 chemicals (more than 70 of which cause cancer)
  • Nicotine: Addictive chemical that increases cholesterol levels in the body
  • Carbon Monoxide: Reduces oxygen levels in the body
  • Ammonia & Bronchodilators: Various chemicals can increase nicotine absorption and the amount of harmful chemicals absorbed by the lungs.

What Happens to Your Body When You Smoke?

Within seconds of inhaling cigarette smoke or vape mist, or chewing tobacco, nicotine causes the release of dopamine in the brain, which gives people a good feeling that keeps them coming back for more. 

Related: How Alcohol Impacts Swimming Performance

Over time, the brain begins to crave that feeling, and people need to use more and more tobacco to get that same result.

Here’s a general overview of side effects from different types of smoking:

  • Cigarettes: Nicotine is addictive. Cigarettes are most likely to cause lung cancer. Smoking can also cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), heart disease, asthma, oral cancer, osteoporosis, and other cancers. 
  • Vapes or eCigarettes: Often considered safer than cigarettes, vapes have health effects too. Their high nicotine content is very addictive and can result in asthma, lung scarring, addiction and other health issues. 
  • Cigars: Not a safe alternative to cigarettes. Cigar smoking can cause all of the same health issues as cigarette smoking, and is thought to have a higher risk of causing oral cancers.
  • Hookah: With its high concentration, hookah causes smokers to absorb more bad chemicals than cigarette smokers in the same time frame, essentially speeding up the potential for the same negative effects as cigarette smoking.
  • Marijuana: Marijuana smoked in a pipe, bong, or joint, is associated with emphysema, bronchiectasis, bronchial wall thickening, and airway mucoid impaction.

5 Ways Smoking Affects Swimming Performance

1. You’ll Fatigue Faster

The chemicals in tobacco bind to red blood cells, preventing the delivery of oxygen to muscles. This will cause you to get tired much more quickly during workouts. You’ll breathe more heavily as well.

After workouts, you may also notice increased muscle soreness as your body struggles to recover.

2. Increased Resting Heart Rate 

When you smoke, your body becomes less efficient at delivering oxygen to your muscles. As a result, your heart works harder to do its job. 

3. Limited Strength

Your maximum strength could be affected if you smoke. You might see a decrease in the strength you have, or have trouble getting stronger.

4. Increased Injury Risk

Smokers are twice as likely to suffer an injury, and will take more time to heal after injuries than non-smokers.

5. Decreased Endurance

When you smoke, you’re making it hard for your lungs to work adequately over long distances. As a result, you’re going to have a tough time making it through any sort of long swim workout or race. 

Keep Your Lungs Healthy

Whether you smoke or not, prioritizing the health of your lungs is important, both in the pool and out. Try the Airofit Pro 2.0 Breathing Trainer for swimming-specific breath training programs designed to improve your accessible lung capacity!

Use our link to save 15% on your Airofit order. 

If you do smoke, know that you can quit to help reverse some of these negative effects. Share your tips or experiences with smoking and swimming in the comments! 

For personalized swim Training Plans that meet you where you’re at, download the MySwimPro app!


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