Life often throws us unexpected challenges, and for those battling cancer or cardiovascular conditions, the road can be particularly challenging. However, amidst these challenges lies a platform that can uplift both the body and mind – parkrun. A free weekly timed 5k event offering a sanctuary where those facing health issues can experience the transformative power of community, exercise, and nature.
Did you know that according to HSE, as of 2020, it is estimated that at least 1.3 million people in Ireland live with a major chronic disease? With 5.2 million living in Ireland, that’s a quarter of the population. Central Statistics Office information shows that cancer and circulatory diseases are the leading causes of death.
It is well documented by health experts that physical activity is one of the top things you can do to lower your risk of developing one of these chronic problems in the first place, but it’s also important to know that exercise can play a role in managing problems and symptoms you may already be experiencing. parkrun offers the ability to walk, jog, run and volunteer at weekly events across the country.
Being active as a volunteer is just as valuable and our research shows that those who volunteer as well as doing the 5k course have an increased level of happiness and positive outlook. According to cancer.org, studies have shown being optimistic and having a positive attitude can lead to a better quality of life for people with cancer.
In this article, we will delve into the incredible benefits of parkrun and how it can be used for positive living with with cancer and cardiovascular conditions, shedding light on how this inclusive movement can foster not just physical wellness, but emotional and mental healing as well.
For people living with cancer and cardiovascular conditions, being active might seem like a daunting task. However, research has demonstrated that regular physical activity can play a pivotal role in managing these conditions and improving overall quality of life.
Engaging in activities like parkrun can help boost cardiovascular fitness, regulate blood pressure,enhance circulation, and is beneficial for patients undergoing cancer treatments or managing heart conditions. Exercise also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, promoting emotional wellbeing and reducing stress, a vital component of the healing journey.
“If you look at a range of patient cases we deal with such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, pain and inflammation, all of which are risk factors and symptoms of various chronic conditions, across the board, we have found there is a huge value that comes from improving the level of physical activity in your routine.
For instance, aerobic exercise can help prevent heart disease, but if you do develop symptoms of heart issues such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, moderate activity can help stop those problems from becoming more serious and developing into something like a heart attack or stroke,” Nessa Healy of Blackrock Clinic says.
The journey through illness can feel lonely, but parkrun offers a vibrant community ready to welcome you with open arms. parkrunners are a collection of people from all walks of life. They come from diverse backgrounds and have their own stories to share, creating an environment of empathy, understanding and camaraderie.
This sense of belonging can be a powerful relief to the isolation that sometimes accompanies health battles. Connecting with others who are facing similar challenges can instil a renewed sense of hope and determination, reminding individuals that they are not alone in their fight.
“I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on 11 May 2017 and had to have chemotherapy every Thursday for three weeks then one week off. When I felt a lift from fatigue and nausea, I would go to Dundalk parkrun. Walking around the course, wrapped up in warm clothes, gave my spirit a huge boost. It felt good to be out, exercising amongst friends.
I suffered from anxiety attacks post-cancer treatment, but with medication, counselling and exercise they subsided. Getting out of my home for a walk in a welcoming place helped greatly as well.“
Annette Reilly, Dundalk parkrun
The general beauty of natural surroundings has a positive impact on mental wellbeing. parkrun events mostly take place in parks, forests, and other scenic locations throughout Ireland, allowing participants to immerse themselves in the soothing setting of nature. Several studies have shown that being in nature can decrease stress and anxiety, feelings that often accompany cancer and cardiovascular conditions, and improve psychological wellbeing.
“parkrun became my path to victory after heart surgery. With the great community, every walk, jog and then run, I reclaimed my strength and began rewriting my story of resilience, embracing life’s challenges with renewed determination.”
Kevin O’Hagan, Cabinteely parkrun
Overcoming the challenges of cancer or cardiovascular conditions requires courage and resilience. parkrun provides a tangible way for you to track progress and celebrate accomplishments. Whether it’s completing 5k for the first time or improving your time at a given parkrun, personal goals can empower you by reminding you of your strength and ability to overcome obstacles.
Remember, every step taken at parkrun, is a step toward a brighter, healthier and more empowered future.
James Dowling, parkrun Ireland
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