News - 14th June 2021

Sharing the parkrun feeling with my patients

Paddy headline

My name is Dr Patrick Daly and I am one of parkrun Australia’s volunteer Health and Wellbeing Ambassadors.


parkrun has evolved a lot over the years in terms of who takes part and how it benefits people’s health and happiness, and my volunteer role is to help position parkrun as a health and social intervention within public health. I am a strong advocate for ‘social prescribing’, which is where health professionals refer patients to a non-medical activity such as parkrun.


I have been a GP for 10 years. General Practice is a very enjoyable specialty due to the wide variety of patients I get to meet, ranging from baby checks through to supporting older people in our community. I also teach clinical skills at Adelaide University and I am clinical supervisor for GPs in training.


Physical activity has proven benefits to physical and mental wellbeing, so connecting patients to some form of physical activity is central to the prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and can help in mental health such as depression and anxiety. This is where parkrun meets my practice.


My first parkrun was Torrens in Adelaide when I relocated here three years ago with my wife and two children. The reason I went to parkrun was to explore my new home and meet new people. I encouraged a colleague to come with me and before I knew it we were at parkrun every time we had the chance. It also got me thinking about how parkrun could benefit some of my patients, and how to support them in taking that first step – which can be really challenging.


For most of us, it is normal to feel obstacles are in our way when making any sort of change in our busy lives – be that eating less sugar, going to bed earlier or being more active. People are often at various stages in their ‘readiness’ to change, so my role is to provide brief and gentle nudges towards this, and if I hear talk of change then we are on our way to making a goal happen. parkrun lends itself beautifully to this as it is free, local, accessible and inclusive.


The key for me is supporting my patients by identifying what group or activity might be right for them and having a conversation about it. If someone is free on a Saturday morning, parkrun could be right for them. Is there someone they can go with? Would they listen to an audiobook while walking 5km? Would they enjoy the idea of helping out as a volunteer? What about going along as a spectator to lift the curtain on parkrun? Or simply  meeting up with the parkrun group for a coffee and a chat afterwards? For example, I often see new mums who have become unhappy and isolated and benefit enormously from having a ready made social group to spend time with each week.


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There are just so many ways a person can get involved in parkrun, which means there are many ways people can benefit.


Exercising for physical health has obvious benefits but the opportunities for wider wellbeing are also there. For example, I see new mums (and dads) who can become isolated socially with the demands of new parenthood that benefit enormously from having a weekly event that allows socialising with childcare as they have a chat whilst touring the course pushing the buggy.


This has been true for me as well. I first came to parkrun to get outdoors more and explore my new surroundings. parkrun motivated me to be in the park on Saturday morning and becoming a parkrunner has been a journey of self discovery, giving me new perspectives and helping my mindset in other areas of my life.


Dr Patrick Daly
parkrunner A4633391


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