If you’ve resolved to quit smoking this year, a newly expanded program that aims to turn smokers into runners may be the answer.
The Canadian Cancer Society, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Running Room have partnered to launch Run to Quit, a 10-week program that will offer running sessions and coaching on how to kick your tobacco habit for good.
The Public Health Agency will invest $5 million to launch the program across the country over the next three years.
Run to Quit started out as a pilot project in Ottawa in 2013. Six months after it ended, 28 per cent of participants had quit smoking, said John Atkinson, the Canadian Cancer Society’s director of tobacco control.
The cessation rate was seven times higher than among those who quit cigarettes cold turkey, he said.
The outcome was “really, really positive, so much so that we were thrilled with the results and we wanted to continue the work,” Atkinson told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
Atkinson was a smoker himself until he took up running and finally kicked his habit after years of trying.
The Canadian Cancer Society says exercise has been shown to keep tobacco cravings at bay for up to 50 minutes after exercise. And those who quit smoking for a month are five times more likely to quit for good, research shows.
The founder of the Running Room, John Stanton, is also an ex-smoker who turned to running and exercise for help.
“Today, smokers are ostracized everywhere,” he told CTV News Channel. “It’s tough being a smoker today.”
He said that’s why the Run to Quit program was designed to be a “welcome environment” for people who fear being judged or thrown into some kind of boot camp.
Stanton said Run to Quit aims to “gently” ease people into running, while helping them cut back on smoking.
At the end of the program, the participants will celebrate with a 5K “fun run,” and will also have a chance at winning cash prizes or a car.
Training programs in the first year will take place at 21 Running Room locations in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. By 2018, the program will be expanded to all provinces and more than 100 Running Room locations.
Those who can’t make it to one of the Running Room stores across the country can also sign up for a virtual training program. Click here for more information on how to register.