A new program is offering a combination of smoking cessation coaching and training for running and walking as a way to get tobacco users to quit. The program is a joint effort of the government’s Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Running Room, a cross-Canada business that sells running gear but also actively encourages and coaches running.
Running Room founder John Stanton was a smoker himself who began to run and overcame his own addiction. At a marathon, he talked another former smoker who worked for the Canadian Cancer Society and they came up with the idea of using exercise to help people quit using tobacco.
‘Dramatically changed lives’ provided impetus
“We were at a marathon and we were talking about the fact we’d both been former smokers and how dramatically our lives had changed,” said Stanton. So they came up with a pilot project in Ottawa three years ago involving 38 people and found that combining exercise with support for smoking cessation increased participants’ chances of quitting by seven fold. After six months, the quit rate was 28 per cent.Listen
Upon seeing the results, the government agreed to contribute five-million dollars to start training programs at 21 Running Room locations across Canada, and expand that to more than 100 locations by 2018.
Cash prizes and a vehicle too
The first program starts in April 2016 and participants can choose from in-person walk/run training at local Running Room locations, online walk/run training, or they can commit to quit on their own for a 10-week period. Participants can win cash and a grand prize of a new vehicle. They must participate in a 5-km walk/run at the end of the program.
At the same time, coaches in smoking cessation are available through a toll-free phone number and online. Stanton says there are positive reasons to get involved. “It’s going to change your life. It’s going to allow you to enjoy your life. It’s going to allow you to get fit, get active, handle stress and along the way, you’re probably going to meet some really nice people.”