21 Feb 2006

Rhys Williams Scoring a TryOver the past forty years as rugby has exceeded into the ranks of professionalism, Wales has seen a new breed of heroes take to our touchlines; heroes who are more determined than ever to prove that they are stronger, fitter and healthier.

It’s a commitment which has paid off for Cardiff Blues’ Rhys Williams ahead of his selection for Wales Commonwealth 7s squad who will take his place in the line-out in Melbourne (March 15-26th).

As Williams and his squad jet out to Aussie grounds, he invites the Welsh public to join their preparations for the Commonwealth by taking inspiration from the fitness levels, hard work and commitment towards a healthy lifestyle that has put Team Wales in shape for the almighty challenge Down Under. In coalition with the Sports Council for Wales, Williams is urging smokers nationwide to kick the cravings by taking up exercise on No Smoking Day.

Smoking is the greatest cause of early death in the UK and despite the chilling statistics, more than a quarter of the Welsh population are exposing themselves to the risk of early death through lung cancer, heart disease, chronic bronchitis and other smoking-related diseases.

It’s become alarmingly popular among younger generations, even though smokers are twice as likely to be tarnished by bad breath, stained teeth, dull skin and premature wrinkles. Most at risk are the 20-24 age group, with 37% admitting to smoking everyday.

On No Smoking Day alone, 300 people will die of a smoking-related illness. Extinguishing the habit reduces carbon monoxide levels in the blood, lowers blood pressure and boosts energy levels. Doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week can fuel this process by stimulating circulation, bringing clean oxygen to the lungs and replenishing pores in the skin. More significantly for addicts, it releases endorphins which can help relieve anxiety experienced during cravings.

According to No Smoking Day organisers, March 8th isn’t just about forcing people to quit, but supporting smokers who seriously want to stub out a dangerous habit. In support of this, Health Challenge Wales – the national focus for action to improve health in Wales supported by the Welsh National Assembly Government - is encouraging smokers to take up sport and physical activity as an enjoyable and easy way to curb the cravings. It aims to promote an active lifestyle as a way of reinforcing the benefits gained for ourselves and our children, by stopping.

Chair of the Sports Council for Wales, Philip Carling, says:

"Regular exercise is proven to have a range of health benefits for everyone. No Smoking Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate a healthier lifestyle. What better way to enjoy the increased benefits to our health than participating in physical activity – a walk or swim to appreciate the difference exercise can make."

Welsh full-back Rhys Williams is extremely concerned that the price of lighting up is a massive cost to our health. An asthmatic himself, he believes smoking is a waste of money and threatens the future of Wales’ sporting stars. Calling on Welsh people to get active and be proud about kicking the habit, Williams said;

"Sport and smoking don’t mix. Sports men and women aim to be the best at all times and their performance can be badly affected by smoking. We can’t look upon ourselves as a superior and professional rugby nation if we’re a nation of smokers.

Winners don’t smoke so light up a healthy lifestyle and get active!"

Every month, smokers will starve their wallets of up to £428 for cigarettes. Theoretically, in the time taken to light up, smokers could play up to 2 hours of sport and holiday down under to the Games with the extra £1,752 saved each year.

Three days before Wales journey to The Millennium Stadium to face Italy, more than a million smokers will strike up their own quest to quit smoking on March 8th. The website is designed to support those who are serious about stopping, offering tips on how to quit the habit and where to find help. The day promises to offer a breath of fresh air, away from the health effects, cost, mess and stigma that go hand in hand with lighting up.