For year's I've known that my mum was suffering from a smoking related illness, but only recently did I realise she was living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - the term for lung conditions that include chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
While early signs of COPD in someone who smokes can often be dismissed as a 'smoker's cough', if they continue smoking and the condition worsens, it can greatly impact on their quality of life making simple everyday things such as climbing stairs, housework or gardening very difficult.
The main cause of COPD is smoking. This is because smoking irritates and inflames the lungs, which results in scarring. You can slow down the progression of the disease. The single best thing a smoker can do to reduce their chances of developing this devastating disease and prolong quality of life, is to stop smoking.
This January, my mum is going to be quitting smoking, and having seen the struggle she's had over the years, I'm working with Public Health England to encourage everyone else who smokes to make 2016 the year that they give up for good too. Once you give up, not only will your health improve, you'll find your fitness levels will increase and so, it'll be the perfect time to get active.
I am a big believer that sport should be fun and that anyone can do it. As a retired, professional athlete, I try to keep my fitness levels up and I understand the importance of looking after yourself, by getting active.
So, if you are after a fresh start for the new year but need a little inspiration to get you going, here are my top three tips for quitting smoking and for getting active.
Top 3 Quitting Tips
1. The Quit List - Begin by writing out a list of reasons why you want to quit smoking, for example, think about how much your health will improve and how much money you'll save. The list will not only reinforce your decision to stop smoking this January, you'll also find it a handy tool to refer to on those difficult days when you feel your cravings are close to getting the better of you.
2. Break Your Routines And Be Honest With Yourself - For many people, smoking is a ritual that is often associated with certain times in their daily routine so it's a good idea to prepare yourself for some of the triggers that make you feel like having a cigarette. Breaking the routine can help you break the habit, for example, if you used to have a cigarette with your morning coffee, try drinking tea instead. Or, if you take a cigarette break with a friend, why not go for a smokefree walk?
3. Expert Advice - Don't forget the free and proven support that is available to help you in your quit attempt. By searching 'smokefree,' online, you can gain access to emails, text messages, the Smokefree mobile phone app and a handy 'Quit Kit' which are all filled with tips and encouragement to keep you going. In addition, free professional advice is on hand for everyone. Your local Stop Smoking Service can give you tailored advice and tips on how to quit whichever method you are using.
Top 3 Fitness Tips
1. Start Low - Doing just a little bit more exercise will make a huge difference! Build up your fitness levels gradually to give your body time to adapt to its new active routine.
2. Get Motivated - Vary the activity you do and find a sport you like so that you're more motivated. Mixing up what kind of sport or activity you do, will keep things fresh. When I was an athlete, I never stuck to one kind of training as having variation kept me motivated. Giving yourself a target to aim for and setting small challenges will help keep you active in the New Year.
3. Set Yourself Goals - Setting yourself goals gives you something to work towards and satisfaction when you achieve them, but make sure you're realistic with short and long term goals. Keep an exercise diary and tick off your achievements, and you'll be amazed by the progress you see! When you reach a goal, reward yourself and you're more likely to stick to your new lifestyle.
Most importantly, don't' give up! Although it might be hard to begin with, you'll soon start experiencing the benefits of being smokefree and more active - you'll feel much better with more energy and self confidence.
Smokers looking to quit are being encouraged to search 'Smokefree' online or visit nhs.uk/smokefree for the full range of free tools and support.
Words and tips by Iwan Thomas