Turning smokers into runners

Canadian Cancer Society and Running Room launch Run to Quit program.

A new program is offering help to thousands of British Columbians kick their smoking habit and get healthier.

With funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Run to Quit is a groundbreaking smoking cessation program that combines the power of peer support with community running and walking clinics to help British Columbians quit smoking for good. As well as enjoying a healthier lifestyle, Run to Quit participants have an additional incentive with chances to win cash prizes and a new vehicle valued at $25,000.

While the majority of people in B.C. do not smoke, more than 563,000 – 14 per cent of the population – still do. Lung cancer accounts for more than 3,000 cancer deaths in B.C. and it continues to be the leading cause of cancer death in the province. Run to Quit builds on the success of a pilot project in Ottawa which found that integrating smoking cessation peer support and a healthy lifestyle makes an individual seven times more likely to quit for good.

“We know that quitting smoking and adopting a healthy lifestyle are proven ways to reduce an individual’s cancer risk,” said Stacey Berisavac, manager of health promotion for the Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. and Yukon. “What’s groundbreaking about Run to Quit is that it offers people a way to quit for good by integrating physical activity as well as support, encouragement and coaching every step of the way.”

The founder of the Running Room, John Stanton, knows firsthand how valuable being active can be to ditching unhealthy habits.

A three-kilometre fun run with his sons in 1981 was the catalyst for the then-out-of-shape, overweight Stanton to realize he had to change his lifestyle.

A food industry executive who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, he began running secretly before dawn because he felt self-conscious about having his neighbours see “this chubby little guy” who could only run from lamp post to lamp post before having to take a walk break.

As Stanton’s fitness improved, he went on to to fill a niche in the marketplace by opening a small one-room store in the renovated living room of an old house in Edmonton, hence the name, “Running Room.” That one store has since expanded to more than 117 locations across Canada and the U.S.

To ensure participants in the Run to Quit program are successful, the B.C. Lung Association’s QuitNow – the province’s primary smoking cessation program – will provide one-to-one personal counselling services and a variety of self-help resources.

“We are excited to be supporting smokers who want to quit through the Run to Quit program,” said Suzanne Gaby, QuitNow Manager. “Our specialized quit coaches empower people and provide them with the tools to be successful with quitting smoking.”

Run to Quit offers three opportunities to help people stop smoking and become healthier: Running Room in-store clinics; on-line clinics; and Commit to Quit incentive challenge.

In-store Run to Quit community training programs will be held from April to June at two Running Room locations in Vancouver. Virtual programs will be open to all British Columbians online at runtoquit.com.

Smoking cessation participants can also join the Commit to Quit stream where they work on going smoke-free for 10 weeks and participate in a five-kilometre walk or run at the end of this period.

Run to Quit registration is open until March 31, 2016. Visit runtoquit.com or call 1-800-419-2906, ext. 264 to learn more and join.

In-person training programs will be held in 21 Running Room locations across Canada in 2016, expanding to 50 locations in 2017 and all 111 stores in year three. The virtual online program and Commit to Quit option is open to everyone across Canada.


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