The Effects of Smoking on Sporting Performance

smoking image by Andrii IURLOV from

Smoking has a very negative impact on sporting performance. According to the Cleveland Clinic, tobacco not only contains tar and nicotine but more than 3,000 additional chemicals that make smokers less physically fit than nonsmokers.

Smokers were reported to have less muscular strength and flexibility, and they receive less benefit from physical training. There are several reasons why smokers are less physically fit for sports than nonsmokers.

Oxygen Levels in the Bloodstream

The human body requires oxygen-rich blood for all energy systems to function. Sporting performance is impaired if oxygen levels in the blood are deceased because carbon monoxide from tobacco is readily absorbed into the bloodstream. Carbon monoxide has a greater affinity than oxygen for a substance in red blood cells called haemoglobin. Haemoglobin normally carries high levels of oxygen throughout the body for nonsmokers. The oxygen level is reduced because of carbon monoxide in the blood from smoking.

Airway Resistance

Smoke inhalation results in chronic swelling of mucous membranes. Airway resistance from inhaling tobacco does not allow for adequate air to move in and out of the lungs. Tar in the smoke increases airway resistance because it coats the lungs and decreases the air sacs' elasticity. Tar has a negative effect on the lungs' cleansing mechanism and allows pollutants to remain in the airway. This causes the athlete to cough and reduces sporting performance. The demand for oxygen in the lungs is increased with physical exercise during sports. The athlete also experiences shortness of breath that reduces performance.

Heart Disease

Arteries to the heart deteriorate, and arterial walls thicken from a build-up of fatty substances and plaque for smoking athletes. These deposits block the flow of blood through the arteries. The smoking athlete's arteries are severely narrowed, and the supply of blood to the heart is greatly reduced during physical activity, reducing sporting performance. The heart must work harder to compensate for the lack of oxygen from the blood reaching the muscles. Nicotine in tobacco acts as a stimulant that increases the heart rate and blood pressure. The combined effect puts the smoking athlete at risk for a heart attack.

Physical Endurance

The Non Smokers' Movement of Australia reported in 2006 on physical endurance studies that showed smokers reach exhaustion before nonsmokers. Smoking has negative affects on bones and joints, making the smoking athlete more susceptible to sports-related injuries. Smokers have poorer overall health than nonsmokers that affects their physical endurance.