Open main menu

Exercise as it relates to Disease/The effect of exercise on CHD risk factors in smokers


In the non-smoking population, regular exercise reduces symptoms of coronary heart disease (CHD) and reverses the effects of atherosclerosis.[1] Smoking on the other hand is known to accelerate atherosclerosis and increase the likelihood of developing CHD by 24%.[2] With this in mind, it is important to know the relationship between exercise, smoking and CHD irrespective of whether an individual chooses to continue or cease taking regular exercise and cigarettes.

Explanation of Issue:Edit

Coronary heart disease describes a condition wherein blood flow to the heart muscle is restricted by fat deposits in the coronary arteries. The accumulation of this fat is a gradual process known as atherosclerosis and is due to a number of contributing factors of which some are predetermined and some are modifiable. Predetermined or unchangeable factors include age, gender and genetic susceptibility to CHD while changeable factors are lifestyle aspects such as diet, exercise, smoking status and social support.[3] CHD is the most prevalent cardiovascular disease in Australia and as such, health intervention aimed at minimising the negative impact of modifiable risk factors is of paramount importance to the individual and country.[4]

The Coronary Heart Disease, Exercise and Smoking Relationship:Edit

Studies undertaken on the interrelationship between CHD, exercise and smoking show that the detriments of smoking are not countered by the benefits of exercise as smokers who participate in regular high activity show the same CHD risk as sedentary non-smokers.[5]

Risk of Population Developing CHD[6]

Smokers Non-smokers
Low Exercise Highest Moderate
Moderate Exercise High Low
High Exercise Moderate Lowest

This information puts to rest the myth that the harm done to an individual's health by smoking can be undone with exercise.


Though there is some benefit to be found in regular exercise for smokers, the detrimental effects of daily smoke inhalation far outweigh the health improvements associated with consistent physical training.[7] As such, complete cessation of smoking is recommended[8] in conjunction with regular moderate physical activity.[9] For more information on exercise guidelines, quitting smoking or coronary heart disease, refer to the following links:


Exercise Information:

Smoking Information:

General Information for preventing and living with Coronary Heart Disease:

List of References:Edit

  1. Ornish, D., Brown, S. E., Billings, J., Scherwitz, L., Armstrong, W. T., Ports, T. A., . . . Brand, R. (1990). Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease?: The Lifestyle Heart Trial. The Lancet, 336(8708), 129-133.
  2. UK, N. H. S. (2012, 10/09/2012). Coronary Heart Disease - Causes Retrieved 19/10, 2013, from
  3. NHFA. (2013). Cardiovascular Conditions: Coronary Heart Disease Retrieved 19/10, 2013, from
  4. NHFA. (2012). Coronary Heart Disease Fact Sheet Retrieved 19/10, 2013, from
  5. Conway, T. L., & Cronan, T. A. (1992). Smoking, exercise, and physical fitness. Preventive Medicine, 21(6), 723-734. doi:
  6. Conway, T. L., & Cronan, T. A. (1992). Smoking, exercise, and physical fitness. Preventive Medicine, 21(6), 723-734. doi:
  7. Conway, T. L., & Cronan, T. A. (1992). Smoking, exercise, and physical fitness. Preventive Medicine, 21(6), 723-734. doi:
  8. Australian Government. (2013). Smoking Causes Heart Disease Retrieved 21/10, 2013, from
  9. ACSM. (2012, 19/01/2012). Exercising with Coronary Heart Disease Retrieved 19/10, 2013, from