What effects does smoking have on stamina?

Regular smoking cancels out the effects of endurance sports

Less than a pack of cigarettes a day cancels out the positive effects of endurance sports. "Smoking 15 to 20 cigarettes a day shortens life on average by around one and a half years," says Freiburg sports doctor Hans Dickhuth on today's World No Tobacco Day (this year's motto: "Tobacco-free sport"). That corresponds exactly to the amount of time by which regular endurance training - for example three-quarters of an hour jogging three times a week - extends life.

According to Dickhuth, who is also President of the German Society for Sports Medicine and Prevention, nicotine activates the autonomic nervous system, which is why athletes feel more alert and productive for a short time after a cigarette. However, they would have to pay for this with performance-reducing side effects: "When you smoke, red blood cells are filled with carbon monoxide, which would otherwise be available for transporting oxygen." Result: The athlete gets out of breath more easily. In addition, smokers are more prone to inflammation, and smoking irritates the lining of the lungs, which leads to a smoker's cough. This is particularly annoying for athletes because it makes breathing difficult. "Overall, studies show that athletes who smoke are less productive."

After all, fitness-conscious people are generally less susceptible to cigarettes. According to this, athletes like the footballer Mario Basler, who openly admits to smoking, are in the minority - especially in disciplines that require perseverance. The sooner people quit smoking, the better. Because with the last cigarette, according to Dickhuth, the physical impairments are far from a thing of the past: "The after-effects usually last as long as you have smoked."