Organizers believe that as participants embrace a healthy activity, such as running, they might be more likely to let go of unhealthy ones, such as smoking.
“If participants decide to consider quitting as a result of participating in the program, that would be a bonus,” says AHS health promotion specialist Michelle Volkart.
“Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, but it can also be a tough thing to do. There is a wide range of quitting options available and I’m excited we’re able to offer this new opportunity in the community.”
Helping Albertans be healthy and stay healthy is among the goals outlined in the 5-Year Health Action Plan, jointly developed by AHS and the Government of Alberta and supported by the province’s stable five-year funding.
Learn to Run for Smokers is open to participants of all fitness levels. Each weekly training session lasts about 90 minutes, including a warm-up and cool down. A combination of walking, running and stretching regimes are included in each session to ensure safe and effective techniques are developed for a lifetime of running.
“Running is a life-changing activity,” says Rob MacDonald, health initiative manager at the Lung Association of Nova Scotia. “This experience encourages people who smoke to love their lungs.”
Wainwright became the first community in Alberta to offer the program earlier this month and it’s expanding to other central Alberta communities throughout the summer, including Stettler, Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House. In Drumheller, participants can attend weekly sessions Thursdays at noon in the basement of the Drumheller Provincial Building, 201 Centre Street.
“The program offers a positive, supportive environment for people who smoke and are looking for a healthier way of life,” says Gail Foreman, an AHS tobacco reduction specialist based in Red Deer who has helped bring the program to Alberta.
“The program works to increase participants’ fitness levels, so that by the end of the eight weeks, they are able to complete a five-kilometre walk or run.”