We’ve all heard the story of a smoker who tried everything but nothing really worked. It may be a friend or a family member, or simply someone you know, but here’s one way way they may not have tried: running.
That’s what Canada’s Run to Quit Program aims to do. The idea is to allow participants in the program the chance to build connections with each other through running, and use this bond to loosen the stranglehold of the addiction. The physical fitness benefits of running – the increased lung capacity, the fitter cardiac health and better oxygenation – are clear, but the stamina and strength required to complete the Run to Quit challenge means runners have to kick the butt. Thankfully, they have the support of smokers or ex-smokers to get them through what can be a emotionally stressful time.
“What appealed to me was it wasn’t like other smoking-cessation programs, This one wasn’t about abstinence, but rather it dealt with the addiction to smoking by introducing connections. It was connecting us with other smokers and connecting us with healthy people,” Jennifer Jeaurond, a participant told The Canadian Press, in a report published by the Toronto Star.
“You build healthy connections and therefore you don’t need that chemical hook anymore. Because we fell in love with the sport of running, we could not keep up our habit of smoking,” Jeaurond adds in the report.
Participants in the program often form running groups, which act as a support system for demotivated or reluctant participants. The ultimate goal could be to run a 5K or a 10K. This builds a sense of belongingness and ensures that no one is left to deal with their smoking habit alone. And the stress of quitting is nullified as well, by the endorphin rush that’s typical of a short run.
The success of the pilot study means more and more locations will begin to offer Run to Quit programs. The pilot study, conducted in Ottawa, showed 21 percent of participants had not smoked in six months of leaving the program, while 50 percent said they had not smoked in a week.
“By joining an actual running group, it gave me a sense of accountability. I had a group of people that I got to know … I’d agreed to do a 5-km run and I had made a commitment to myself and then got the camaraderie and friendship of others that kept me coming week after week. And also, I felt so good after I started to exercise. I felt great,” said said John Atkinson, who heads the Canadian Cancer Society’s Smokers’ Helpline. He completed the Boston Marathon last year, is aiming to run the Ottawa Marathon this year.
So the next time you hear someone bemoan about how they have not been able to quit smoking, point them towards one of the simplest solutions i.e running.
Main image: http://www.grethilly.co.za/