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I'm 23 years old (150 lbs, 5'-7") and in pretty bad physical shape.

I've been smoking/drinking for the past 7 years and also been living a very sedentary lifestyle. I spend about 8 hours on the computer at work and then 4-5 more at home. That's pretty much what I do 90% of the time.

I've made the decision tonight to quit smoking and get into shape. My posture is poor, I feel tired most of the time, and my endurance & strength are at an all time low.

How you would recommend I go about this given my history? (I really want to focus on cardiovascular health & posture).

Also is anything (exercise/diet related) proven to help outdo some of the damage from smoking?

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For your posture, this q/a has good exercises and info about improving your postural muscles. This q/a about getting started has some information to help you meet your goals. Congratulations and good luck. –  BackInShapeBuddy Jan 28 at 20:55
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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It's great that you are making this choice to change your health for the better. There are a few things that you can do to really improve your chances of success:

  • Understand this is going to take a long time, be patient with yourself. Your goal is to be a better version of yourself.
  • Get support. Quitting smoking is not easy, so it helps to get the support of people who know how to help you achieve that goal. Same with changing the way you eat or move. There will be days you feel like giving up, days where you fall back to old habits. The right support will help you pick yourself up and get back on track.
  • Get routine physicals. Once a year should be good, but I do recommend getting one before you jump in with moving more. It will let you know what your overall health is like, and how the changes you are making are affecting your health.
  • Find your bliss. There's many ways of improving your cardiovascular health, and you may enjoy one over another. You might enjoy running, or you may enjoy biking or swimming. Sometimes team sports are another way to do something that you'll want to get better at. The more you see physical activity as having fun, the more likely you are to keep doing it.

Here is the good news for where you are:

  • Small changes are going to make big improvements in the beginning.
  • Devoting 15-20 minutes a day to mobility work (strengthening weak muscles and stretching tight muscles) will improve your posture. That's not too bad, and you can do that kind of work anywhere with just body weight exercises.
  • Just quitting smoking alone will help your body undo a lot of the damage.

And then the not so good news for where you are:

  • The smoking has impaired your lungs, so you are going to get tired faster and work harder than someone who has never smoked. Ramp up your activity a little at a time.
  • It can be difficult to sift through diet advice, but the first step is going to be easy to understand: eat out less, and eat real food more. Real food includes lean meats or fish, fibrous vegetables and fruits, eggs, and nuts. This probably means you are going to have to make your lunches and bring them to work.
  • You might find being healthy more expensive than not being healthy. That expense may go up because you need the help of a coach, personal trainer, and/or the support needed to quit smoking.

The rest of it is choosing to make healthier food choices, and finding something active that you like doing. You may choose to start with 5 minutes of physical activity a day, and that's fine. Next week make it six, then seven, until you are doing something for at least 20 minutes a day. You may choose to seek out a coach or personal trainer, and they will help you by regulating the work you do every time you work out.

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First, congrats on deciding to live a healthy lifestyle. Given that decision and your past history, you should consider getting a physical exam to ensure you are able to begin an exercise program designed for improving your cardio health.

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