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Fitness

Rehab Your Bad Habits Now

It's never too late to undo the damage from your former smoking, sunning, or couch-potato ways. Learn how to reverse the effects for a healthier future.
Quit smoking The Crime: You used to smoke a pack a day.

Congrats on kicking butts! You gain health benefits almost as soon as you ditch the habit. Within 12 hours of your final cigarette, your blood oxygen levels, which plummet when you smoke, return to normal, and within two days, your senses of smell and taste return. Within a year, your elevated risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke due to smoking drops to less than half of what it had been when you still puffed. And after a smoke-free decade, your risk for death from lung cancer will be 50 percent less than that of a pack-a-day smoker.

Your rehab plan: Pump up your lungs by eating right. "A diet rich in antioxidants -- especially leafy greens, like spinach, kale, and collards -- boosts lung health by stopping free radical damage," says Norman Edelman, MD, president of the American Lung Association. Toss a handful of baby spinach into omelets, stir-fries, or salads, and use collards or kale leaves as wraps for burritos and sandwiches.

If you still light up occasionally, commit to a combination of support programs -- such as behavioral therapy, in which you learn to avoid your smoking triggers -- and medications, Dr. Edelman says. Quitters are about 40 percent more likely to succeed when they use medication in combination with counseling rather than a solo method, research found. And keep up your cardio workouts. "Strenuous exercise generates endorphins, which might control cravings, plus it helps tone the cardiovascular system, so your lungs don't have to work as hard to deliver oxygen," Dr. Edelman says. Yoga also helps women quit, according to a new study in the Journal of Women's Health.

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