I have recently quit smoking after about two years of the habit, smoking between one to five cigarettes a day. I want to start running, but I wonder if my lungs are permanently damaged from smoking. Please help.
— Kicked the Butts
First off, let me congratulate you on quitting smoking. One cigarette a day is one too many in my book, and quitting is one of the best things your can do for your short-term and long-term health. I also think it's great that you want to start running. It is my favorite form of cardio and just feels great. I have some good news on how your lungs are doing, so read more.
The good news is that the benefits of quitting smoking begin almost immediately. The first benefit is that your blood pressure returns to normal about 20 minutes after the last puff of your last cigarette. After about three days, your bronchial tubes will relax, making it easier for you to breathe, and that increases the oxygen flow of your lungs, improving your energy levels. Doesn't that make you want to get out there and test your lungs right now? Your lung capacity will improve daily after quitting, and it takes two weeks to six months for your lung functioning to improve by 30 percent. Just in case that last stat makes you think you should wait six month after quitting smoking to run, don't. Exercise can help you fight nicotine cravings. I think once you start running, you won't want to smoke since it will interfere with your runs. I highly recommend the Couch to 5k program as a way to start running.
Good luck and know that your lungs are really happy you quit smoking.