In 2015 Stockland ran an online survey with parkrunners called “Healthy and Happy” asking parkrunners about their personal well-being, perceived benefits of parkrun and what recreational activities they like to participate in. Stockland kindly allowed our Sydney University team to analyse their data.
Our research group specialises in exploring the relationship between physical activity and health and parkrun is different to the one-off annual “fun runs” that most of the existing evidence about the benefits of mass-participation sporting events is based on. As a parkrunner myself, I anecdotally hear about how positively parkrun affects people so we wanted to use some objective data to look at the relationship between being a parkrunner and some measures of well-being.
The study had ethical approval from University of Sydney and was approved by the parkrun Research Board. A total of 865 adult Australian parkrunners from 96 parkruns across Australia were included. We analysed scores on nine measures of personal well-being (for example, how satisfied are you with: What you are currently achieving in life; Your personal relationships; Your health; Your life as a whole) and an overall Personal Well-being Index (PWI) a summary score across the individual measures.
We compared our parkrunners’ scores to national, general population scores which revealed an interesting and complex picture. Satisfaction with health was higher for parkrunners overall, amongst male parkrunners, and parkrunners aged over 45; only parkrunners aged 18-24 fell below their age group norm. Interestingly, overall, parkrunners were below the general population for satisfaction with current achievement, personal relationships, future security and life as a whole.
Regarding associations between the well-being measures and how runners rated parkrun as benefitting their mental health and their connection to community, the higher women rated the mental health benefits of parkrun, the higher their Satisfaction with life as a whole and the overall PWI. For men, the higher they rated parkrun for community connection, the higher scores their scores on the PWI. While the data we only allow us to identify associations and not causation, what the results may suggest is that parkrun can offer support at critical times in life, such as young adulthood, when other sources of social connectedness and regular physical activity may be lacking. Further, women’s overall personal well-being may benefit from parkrun through improved mental health and men’s from community connectedness. The inclusive and non-judgemental atmosphere, commitment-free format and gentle competitiveness with yourself which parkrun fosters make it an ideal tonic.
Curl Curl parkrunner
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