If you have any breathing difficulties or lung disease, then you’ve probably thought for a minute about quitting smoking. If so, you might want to think for 20 minutes, because that’s about the time it takes for your body to start healing.

Sound like a good move? It should.

More than 16 million Americans suffer from a disease caused by smoking, as reported by the U.S. Surgeon General.

The good news is you can begin your recovery to a healthier life right away because your body begins healing within mere minutes of stopping smoking—not months or years as one might think.

That’s reason enough to start today. Want more? Read on.

Timeline of Benefits From Quitting Smoking

According to WebMD, after 20 minutes into quitting smoking your blood pressure and pulse will already improve, giving your hands and feet improved warmth and circulation. See below for a timeline of your body’s recovery.

Day One:

Let’s say you got out of bed today and decided to quit smoking. By early afternoon your blood oxygen levels will already have returned to that of a typical non-smoker.

Over the first 24 hours, the carbon monoxide and nicotine levels in your bloodstream reduce by half —important because they starve your blood of life-sustaining oxygen.

Your body is now recovering rapidly enough that you will get out of bed the next day and enjoy not just a healthier breath but also dramatically reduced chances of having a heart attack. (Smokers who smoke one pack per day have double the risk of having a heart attack.)

Great job! You’re on your way to better health.

Week One:

It just keeps getting better. Several days into quitting smoking your senses will heighten. Food tastes better. Flowers smell more beautiful.

You’ll also experience shortness of breath less frequently. Your lungs begin repairing the cilia, or the hair-like projections that clear mucus and crud from your lungs. The inflammation of your lung tissue will reduce, thus improving your breathing.

Unfortunately, this is also the moment when your cravings become the worst. Finding ways to distract yourself from the needs will help.

Month One:

As your lungs continue to heal in your first month of quitting smoking, your breathing will improve, allowing you to increase your activity and exercise levels. Your improved circulation and blood health will also provide more energy and vitality.

You’ll also start moving away from any prevalent coughing or wheezing you may typically experience.

Year One:

Your first year without smoking will offer you a major milestone. Not only will your lung health and overall energy be improved, but your chances of heart disease have now been cut in half.

Your Life Forever:

In the coming years without smoking, you will continue to see respiratory improvements.

Here are the ongoing benefits you’ll achieve at the following milestones:

  • 5 years: stroke and cervical cancer now equal a non-smoker
  • 10 years: now half as likely to get lung cancer
  • 15 years: now same heart disease chances as a non-smoker

Please note that the above timeline follows the general reporting of WebMD and the U.S. Surgeon General. Your experience may differ especially for those with longer-term lung damage or emphysema.

In Conclusion

With the headaches and the cravings that accompany a major life change, quitting smoking can seem like an insurmountable challenge. But when you learn the speed of recovery your body undergoes, you may find ample motivation.