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Personnel urged to give up smoking

Fitness is a requirement of serving in the military and essential to living a healthy life. It provides many benefits that support a person’s health - some of which are particularly beneficial to those involved in active roles, including service personnel - such as resilience to adverse environmental conditions, stress and improved recovery times from injury.

Effects of smoking

Smoking has a huge impact on a person’s fitness, health and wealth, including;

  • Smoking causes both immediate and long-standing effects on exercise and physical activity.
  • Smokers have less endurance, poorer physical performance, and increased rates of injury and complications from physical activity.
  • Smokers are more prone to injury and take longer to recover.
  • Smokers are more susceptible to heat and cold injury.
  • Smokers suffer from shortness of breath almost three times as often as non-smokers.

As well as these issues, smoking also increases the chances of a person gaining a musculoskeletal injury as it causes continuing harm to the bone and muscle systems of your body. In addition to this;

  • Smoking lowers the bone mineral density (i.e. the bulk/mass) of your bones as it reduces how much calcium your bones take in and lowers your levels of vitamin D. This happens from as young as 18-20 years of age.
  • Smokers and ex-smokers have a greater rate of bone loss than non-smokers.
  • Smokers and ex-smokers have 60% more pain in the back, neck and legs.
  • Smoking causes poorer development of your hip, spine and neck.
  • Smokers are more likely to have a bone fracture and will heal more slowly.

Benefits of stopping smoking

Quitting smoking has been shown to help reverse the effects of bone loss, and giving up smoking can have immediate benefits for your health and wellbeing, including;

  • Within 20 minutes your blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal.
  • 8 hours since you last smoked and the nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in your blood will drop by 50% and your blood oxygen levels will return to normal.
  • Two days without smoking and your lungs will start to clear out any mucus and related debris.
  • After 3 days breathing will be noticeably easier and your general energy levels will increase.
  • Over time your circulation will improve as well as smoking related coughing, wheezing and breathing issues.

40-50% of all quit attempts across the year are achieved during the January – February period, with research suggesting this is driven by the ‘New Year’s Resolution’ effect.

The MOD’s Surgeon General has provided the following advice to those wishing to stop smoking: START

5 Steps to quitting – START

Congratulations on wanting to quit. Having a plan will make it easier! Don't rely on willpower alone to keep you smoke free. Prepare so that you can feel confident in your ability to stay smoke free.

S set a quit date. Choose a date within the next two weeks, so you have enough time to prepare without losing your motivation to quit. If you mainly smoke at work, quit on the weekend, so you have a few days to adjust to the change.

T tell family and friends that you plan to quit. Help them to keep you busy and remind you of why you are quitting. If possible, find a quit buddy who wants to stop smoking as well.

A access your local stop smoking service at your medical facility – you will be four times more likely to quit as they can offer you support, advice, Nicotine Replacement Therapy and help in how to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Access www.smokefree.gov to support your quit with additional phone, text, online and app based help.

R remove cigarettes, tobacco, lighters and ashtrays from your home, car, remove yourself from cigarettes – avoid people and places where you are tempted to smoke. Avoid the big smoking triggers, at least during the first few weeks – caffeine, alcohol, pubs.

T take small steps and short term goals – do it day by day or week by week. A stop smoking advisor is particularly good at helping with this. Reward yourself for each goal you achieve.

Remember quitting smoking happens one minute, one hour, and one day at a time. Don't think of quitting as 'forever'. Pay attention to right now, and the days will add up!