Canadian Cancer Society and Running Room launch Run to Quit, a unique program that combines physical activity with support for smoking cessation to significantly increase quit rates

13 January 2016

Toronto -

With New Year’s resolutions come and gone, Run to Quit offers Canadians a way to finally end their addiction to tobacco while also getting physically active. The groundbreaking program, now rolling out nationally, offers one-on-one smoking cessation coaching combined with expert training for running and walking, including community clinics. In addition to enjoying better health, participants can win cash and the grand prize of a new vehicle valued at $25,000.

Run to Quit builds on the success of a pilot project in Ottawa, which demonstrated that combining exercise with support for smoking cessation increased the chances of quitting by 7-fold compared to going cold turkey. Building someone’s capacity to run or walk reduces cravings and discomfort while also enjoying the benefits of increased cardiovascular capacity. The Ottawa pilot posted a 28% quit rate among its participants 6 months after the end of the program.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is investing $5 million to create a 3-way partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society and the Running Room to launch the program across Canada over the next 3 years.

“As a former smoker, I know how difficult it can be to overcome the addiction to tobacco,” says John Atkinson, Director, Cancer Prevention and Tobacco Control, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. “Run to Quit represents a highly effective quit program featuring one-on-one coaching in an encouraging environment with zero guilt or judgment.”

“Running Room is eager to work closely with smokers to help them quit and to start enjoying a new addiction – being physically active,” says John Stanton, Founder and CEO of Running Room Canada. “Like me, many of our trainers are former smokers so they have a deep understanding of what participants will go through, as well as how the health benefits from running and walking inspire people to stay the course. Together, we can work at getting Canada smoke-free and introduce people to the thrill of being an athlete, lifelong.”

Another innovative feature of Run to Quit is the ability for non-smokers to join a friend or family member who smokes. For example, a son or daughter can do the program with a parent, bringing both closer together and adding another layer of encouragement.

“Run to Quit’s pilot program showed promising results in influencing measurable healthy behaviour and lifestyle change,” says Dr Jane Philpott, Minister of Health. “This innovative quit-smoking and active living program is a leading example of how government, the not-for-profit and the private sectors can work together to encourage healthier lifestyles for Canadians.”

Training programs in the first year will take place at 21 Running Room locations located in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, expanding to all provinces and more than 100 Running Room locations by 2018. Smokers anywhere can also take part through a comprehensive web-based program. 

The inaugural training program starts in April and lasts 10 weeks. Participants can choose from the following program streams:

  • in-person training programs – attend learn to walk/run sessions at local Running Room locations
  • virtual program – join a learn to walk/run training program online
  • commit to quit – commit to quit on your own for a 10-week period

Experienced quit coaches are available through a toll-free number and online.

All participants must complete a fun 5-km walk/run at the end of their program.

Registration for Run to Quit is open until March 31, 2016. To register or for more information, visit RuntoQuit.com or call 1-800-419-2906, ext 264. Thanks to quit partners NICODERM® and NICORETTE® all eligible participants will receive coupons for nicotine replacement therapy products to help them quit smoking.

Facts about quitting smoking

  • No matter how long a person has smoked, when they quit their health will vastly improve as their body starts to reverse some of the damage caused by smoking.
  • Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, blood pressure and pulse (heart rate) will return to normal. Within 48 hours, lung capacity increases and breathing becomes easier.
  • Within 1 year, the risk of having a heart attack will drop by 50%. Within 10 years, the risk of dying from lung cancer will be cut in half.
  • The majority of smokers want to quit, and exercise has been shown to keep cravings and withdrawal symptoms away for up to 50 minutes after exercise. [1]
  • Research shows if people who smoke can stop for 1 month, they are 5 times more likely to be able to remain smoke-free for good.[2]
  • Quitline support combined with medication, such as nicotine replacement therapy, can more than triple the chances of quitting successfully.[3]

About the Canadian Cancer Society

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, the Society has the most impact, against the most cancers, in the most communities in Canada. For more information, visit cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

About Running Room

The Running Room is proudly a family-owned company. It originated in 1984 out of founder John Stanton’s wish to purchase quality running shoes from someone knowledgeable about the sport.
A 3-km fun run with his sons in 1981 was the catalyst for the then-out-of-shape, overweight John Stanton to realize he had to change his lifestyle. A food industry executive who smoked 2 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 lamppost to lamppost before having to take a walk break.
New to the sport of running, John had a thirst for knowledge as well as a desire to buy the right product. This entrepreneurial retailer decided 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.” The concept was highly successful, and the stores have since expanded to over 117 locations across Canada and the United States.

About the Public Health Agency of Canada

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s mission is to promote and protect the health of Canadians. The Agency’s activities focus on preventing chronic diseases, like cancer and heart disease, preventing injuries and responding to public health emergencies and infectious disease outbreaks.

This project is funded in part through the Agency’s Multi-Sectoral Partnership Approach to Promote Healthy Living and Prevent Chronic Disease initiative. Each year, approximately $20 million is invested toward projects that address the common risk factors for chronic disease, including unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and tobacco use.

About McNeil Consumer Healthcare, division of Johnson & Johnson Inc.

McNeil Consumer Healthcare, division of Johnson & Johnson Inc. markets a broad range of well-known and trusted over-the-counter products. McNeil Consumer Healthcare is most widely recognized for the TYLENOL® brand. Other McNeil Consumer Healthcare brands include NICODERM® and NICORETTE® Nicotine Replacement Therapies; BENADRYL® and REACTINE® allergy medicines; IMODIUM® antidiarrheal; PEPCID® and ZANTAC® for digestive health; and MOTRIN® Ibuprofen.


For further information or to book an interview, contact:
Daniel Paquette
PR counsel, dpPr

Susan Fekete
Communications specialist
Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division
613-723-1744 ext. 3616

[1] Adrian H. Taylor, Michael H. Ussher, Guy Faulkner The acute effects of exercise on cigarette cravings, withdrawal symptoms, affect and smoking behaviour: a systematic review (Addiction 2007 Volume 102 Issue 4) 534.

[2] West, R, Stapleton, J., Clinical and public health significance of treatments to aid smoking cessation. European Respiratory Reveview, December 1, 2008 vol. 17  no. 110  199-204.