Smoking weights sneakers Smoking weights sneakers A new study reveals that quitting smoking can help people in their strength training. (Photo: thodonal88 / Shutterstock)

Want to gain muscle strength? Quit smoking!

According to a new study, quitting smoking can help you bulk up.

Many smokers put off quitting because of a fear of weight gain, but a new study showed that much of that weight actually comes in the form of muscle mass, muscle strength and bone density.

A year-long study conducted by a team of researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s Rappaport Faculty of Medicine in Haifa, Israel, and published in the journal Addiction, tested the body composition and muscle strength in 41 smokers who smoked at least 15 cigarettes per day for a year. One quarter of them quit smoking for the entire year.

The subjects’ muscle strength was measured using a fixed series of exercises at the beginning and end of the study. The results showed that while the quitters did gain an average of 11 pounds, 26 percent of that came from additional muscle mass – and they also got about 20 percent stronger.

fist crushing cigarette packA new study reveals that quitting smoking can help people in their strength training. (Photo: Photosani/Shutterstock)

Across the group, the additional muscle mass meant greater strength: chest press increased on average by 17 pounds and leg press increased by almost 40 pounds. The smokers’ strength did not change significantly during the year.

Dietary intake and physical activity levels were estimated using questionnaires, while smoking status was ascertained using urine tests. Both the smokers and quitters reported similar diet and activity habits at the beginning and end of the period.

“Our study is quite good news. Just by quitting smoking, you seem to be able to gain muscle mass and strength,” said Oren Rom, a registered dietician who led the study for his doctoral thesis. The study was supervised by Professor Dror Aizenbud, chairman of the Department of Orthodontic and Craniofacial Anomalies at Rambam Health Care Campus, and Professor Abraham Reznick, a molecular biophysicist at Technion.

Research from Livestrong shows that quitting smoking also makes exercise more efficient. Because a smoker’s heart beats around 30 times faster than that of a non-smoker, a smoker uses more energy during workouts. An exercise routine designed to build muscle will have lower results in a smoker than in a nonsmoker. Additionally, among men, smoking can damage cells that produce testosterone in the body. In turn, lower testosterone levels can further reduce the results of exercise.

“If we can see that there are some beneficial effects from weight gain, like improved muscle function and strength and improved bone density and strength, maybe it will encourage people to quit,” Rom said.

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