Two years ago, participants in National Nursing Centers Consortium's (NNCC) Be Free From Nicotine, a six-week smoking cessation program, asked for a fitness and nutrition component. Elizabeth Byrne, manager of smoking cessations programs at NNCC, responded. The PHMC affiliate created Stay Quit, Get Fit. "Many of our successful participants were motivated to get active and eat better after they quit smoking," says Byrne.

Using the participants' feedback, NNCC partnered with Drexel University's 11th Street Family Health Services to design Stay Quit, Get Fit with a comprehensive health approach including exercise, nutrition and primary care. "We saw this as a great opportunity to tie patients' smoking behaviors more closely to their day-to-day health. Stay Quit, Get Fit combines quitting smoking with working out for people who did not previously exercise regularly. It's a one-stop shop," says Byrne, noting that 74% of participants reduced their Body Mass Index (BMI) at the conclusion of the program.

Stay Quit, Get Fit connects people with care who may not otherwise be getting primary care.

The seven-week program meets twice weekly to provide participants with smoking cessation and fitness classes in a nurse-managed, primary health care center. Byrne believes the location helps encourage participants to take charge of their health. "Stay Quit, Get Fit connects people with care who may not otherwise be getting primary care," she says. "They get to know care providers on a first-name basis." In 2007, when the program began, classes were held only at 11th Street Family Health Services, which provides primary care to North Philadelphia residents. Last year, it expanded to provide classes at Abbotsford-Falls Family Practice Counseling and in June it will offer classes at PHMC Health Connection in North Philadelphia.

Participants complete a smoking and fitness level survey and are measured for height, weight, blood pressure and BMI. Their lung capacity is measured using a spirometer to gauge the "age" of their lungs. "Smokers in their 40s come into class devastated because the spirometer tells them they have the lung capacity of an 86-year old," says Byrne. "It's important that class members see tangible results. We help them with that."

In the first hour of each class, participants exercise as a group. The second hour focuses on cessation counseling. "Most people gain up to 10 pounds the year after quitting," says Byrne. "Our participants maintain their pre-smoking body weight, lose weight, or gain a minimal amount of weight." Weight control is just one positive outcome of Stay Quit, Get Fit. In surveys taken three months after participants completed Stay Quit, Get Fit, 58% reported a reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked and 89% of participants developed improved lung capacity. "As difficult as it can be to keep people motivated, it's nice when they say ‘You helped me save my life,'" says Byrne.

For more information about Stay Quit, Get Fit, visit