Researchers, who studied the health of 16 people all considered to be healthy and having no symptoms of lung disease, said that those who smoke are likely to lose more muscle mass in old age than non-smokers.
The new research published in the American Journal of Physiology shows that smoking is likely to speed up a condition known as sarcopenia - the loss of muscle mass with ageing which is linked to poor balance, gait speed, falls, and fractures.
The study participants were divided in two equal groups - heavy smokers, who had smoked at least a pack of 20 cigarettes a day for at least 20 years and non-smokers.
The researchers at the University of Nottingham discovered that the amounts of myostatin, a muscle growth inhibitor and MAFbx enzyme that breaks down muscle protein, were higher in smokers than non-smokers.
'From our tests, we can conclude that smoking impairs day to day upkeep of muscle,' said researcher Philip Atherton.