My name is Ruth and I am the parkrun volunteer PROVE Champion (parkrun – Running or Volunteering for Everyone) for people who are affected by overweight and obesity. The PROVE project aims to engage and encourage those with a specific long term condition to take park in parkrun either walking, running or volunteer.
You may be wondering why there is a specific parkrun group for adults and children who are overweight or obese? Alike other long term conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, overweight or obese is also a complex medical condition. However, a person who has overweight or obesity can often be treated differently or less favourably because of their weight. This condition is often poorly understood and is not just because a person eats too much or is not physically active enough, there is often a psychological reason which plays an important part.
A person who is overweight or obese may have had a negative experience in the past such as abuse or bullying or they may have been victim to stigmatisation because of their weight. As individuals, we adopt different ways of dealing with negativity but for some people food is used as the coping strategy. Food can be a comfort, a sense of security, a friend when there is no one else around. Adopting more constructive coping mechanisms rather than food to manage emotions is part of the work I do as a physiotherapist in a specialist weight management team. As well as supporting emotional wellbeing we also promote activity to improve physical wellbeing.
Specialist services for people who are affected by overweight or obesity are few and far between. For many common health conditions there are many support groups and charities that offer advice and a place to share your feelings with others. There are few such support groups for those who are overweight or obese. With few designated support groups, managing this condition alone is isolating and when your mood is low getting out of bed can feel like a challenge never mind turning up to parkrun to walk/jog 5k.
So how can parkrun help? I think all of us who get up on a Saturday and travel to a parkrun as a walker/jogger/runner/volunteer know what a positive impact it can have on our lives. It gives us a reason to get out of the house, gain a sense of achievement and an opportunity to take part in physical activity. parkrun is a place where we meet our friends and family, make new friends and where we all share one thing in common – parkrun. Everyone is welcome no matter what.
parkrun is an inclusive community where we consistently extend our kindness and non-judgmental approach to help encourage others including those who are affected by the consequences of overweight and obesity.
If you know a friend or family member who is affected by overweight and obesity, why not tell them about parkrun and junior parkrun. We have a closed Facebook group, parkrun for people affected by obesity, where members can share their stories and offer support to each other. If you have a story to share with us, please get in touch with me.
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