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Health Coach Tips: 5 Healthy Habits to Replace Smoking

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Health Coach Tips: 5 Healthy Habits to Replace Smoking

Reading Time: 5 minutes 20 seconds 

Health agencies do a good job of making the connection between smoking cigarettes and cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses that 90% of lung cancer deaths are due to tobacco smoke, whether first or secondhand. The National Cancer Institute adds that 250 chemicals in tobacco smoke are known to be harmful. At least 69 of them can lead to cancer.

Even knowing the smoking-cancer connection, many people continue to smoke. While replacing this activity with a healthy habit can help, it’s also important to understand that smoking isn’t just about increased cancer risk. In fact, this unhealthy habit comes with a whole host of negative effects.

Smoking Does More Than Increase Cancer Risk

In addition to cancer, smoking has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. One study reports that a smoker has double the risk of coronary heart disease than a non-smoker. And the more you smoke, the greater the risk. This is partially because smoking can elevate blood pressure. If it stays elevated, this can lead to a heart attack.

If a person continues to smoke after developing heart disease, they also have an increased risk of depression. A study of 193 people who had a cardiac event found that smoking predicted depression in these patients. This was especially true for depression occurring within the first three months post-event.

Smoking can also have negative effects on your skeletal system. Research has linked smoking with reduced bone metabolism. Bone mineral density is often lower in those who smoke. This increases fracture risk. It also elevates one’s risk of osteoporosis.

Another study indicates that a smoker’s risk of death is 2-3 times higher than that of a non-smoker. That’s because this habit has been connected to 21 different diseases. Among them are diseases impacting the kidneys, respiratory system, and digestive organs.

Benefits of Quitting

Here’s the good news: Quitting smoking offers many benefits. Dropping this habit reduces your risk of disease and early death. You also likely notice that it’s easier to breathe when engaging in any type of physical activity. Even something as simple as walking up the stairs doesn’t feel like as much of a struggle when you no longer smoke.

You can also save a lot of cash when you quit smoking. The price of a pack of cigarettes can vary based on where you live. World Population Review reports that Missourians pay the least at $5.25 a pack. If you live in New York, you pay the most, with each pack of cigarettes costing around $12.85. Cut this expense from your budget and you can save more than $4,626 per year on a pack-a-day habit. If you smoke more, your savings can be double or triple this amount.

If you want to have children, quitting can help with this as well. Studies have found that, for males, smoking can reduce semen quality and sperm maturation. Cigarette smoke can also negatively impact ovarian function in females according to the research. So, if you and/or your partner smoke, quitting can improve your ability to have children. This may be even more important for young adult smokers interested in starting a family.

Why Going “Cold Turkey” Usually Doesn’t Work

One common approach to smoking cessation is to quit “cold turkey.” You put down the cigarettes or other form of tobacco and tell yourself you’re done. The problem is, this generally doesn’t work.

Even though smoking has many negative effects, it also typically serves a valuable purpose. If your family and friends smoke, doing the same is a way to fit in. If you’re feeling stressed, smoking can help ease that stress. It may not do it in a healthy way, but it can still provide benefits nonetheless.

When you’re face-to-face with your smoking triggers, it makes it harder to stop this habit. Plus, withdrawal symptoms can be strong. In the moment, it doesn’t matter that this habit is hurting your health. You just want to feel “normal” or “good” again.

The best way to establish a new normal, a healthier normal, is to replace your smoking habit. Instead of picking up a cigarette when you’re stressed, do something else. Instead of bonding with loved ones through nicotine, bond by doing something else.

5 Healthy Habits to Replace Smoking & Finally Drop This Bad Habit

If replacing bad habits with good habits offers more success, what habits fall into the latter category? Here are five to consider.

  1. Walking. For many, smoking is a way to relieve stress. This makes stopping smoking extra challenging. What habit helps ease stress? Walking. When you feel your tension rising, lace up your walking shoes and head outside. The physical activity and fresh air can help put things into perspective. If the weather isn’t good, hit the treadmill instead. You’ll likely find that, whichever one you choose, you’ll wind up with a clearer (and calmer) head. Walking is also a good way to increase energy and beat fatigue.
  2. Taking up a hobby. Hobbies are another positive way to deal with the stresses of everyday life. They give you something to do that absorbs your time and focus. Picking a hobby that uses your hands can also keep them busy so they’re not reaching for a cigarette. Take up woodworking. Make jewelry. Crochet blankets for sick children. It doesn’t matter what you do, only that you do something. And that you do it often enough to make quitting easier.
  3. Chewing gum. When you quit smoking, your mouth can feel a little lost. Give it something to do by chewing gum. Blow a bubble or two for an added effect. Sugar-free gum is preferred because it’s not as harmful to your teeth. In fact, one UK study projects that chewing sugar-free gum three times a day could save more than $11.5 million annually in dental bills.
  4. Talking it out. Pent-up stress is the worst. If you don’t let it out, it can hurt your health. It can also make it harder to not smoke. Instead of reaching for tobacco when you’re struggling, reach for the phone. Call a friend or family member and talk about what’s bothering you. If your withdrawal symptoms are at an all-time high, share your frustrations verbally. Sometimes, all you need is to vent a little. You’ll likely feel better when you do.
  5. Singing your favorite song. Music has a way of helping people overcome all sorts of obstacles. It can help heal a broken heart or motivate you to be a better person. It can also help you quit smoking. When you feel the urge to “light one up,” turn up your favorite song and sing along. It’s also hard to smoke when you’re belting out your favorite tune. Dance around while you’re at it. Get your entire body involved, reducing your urge to smoke because you’re having too much fun.

Living a healthy lifestyle can make it easier to quit smoking. Engaging in these activities can also help avoid the weight gain that sometimes comes with dropping the smoking habit.

What About Nicotine Replacement Products?

There are many products available to help ease your tobacco craving when quitting smoking. Some are designed to slowly reduce your nicotine consumption. Nicotine gum is one example. You can also purchase lozenges or patches with varying amounts of nicotine. 

These types of products are referred to as nicotine replacement therapy. Replacement therapy provides a more personalized way of reducing and, ultimately, eliminating your smoking habit. They can help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms by reducing exposure to this drug slowly. The more you can avoid or relieve these withdrawal symptoms, the easier it is to quit.

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