Approaching 800 GP practices across the UK have now registered to become parkrun practices – this means they have partnered with their local parkrun event to signpost patients and staff to take part in parkrun to help treat a host of health conditions and improve physical and mental wellbeing.
To highlight best practice examples, as well as some of the fantastic case studies to have emerged, we share stories from the north and south of England…
One of the many parkrun practices is Lambert Medical Centre in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, who teamed up with Northallerton’s parkrun, and the link has already been incredibly successful.
Together they have staged volunteer takeovers at the event. One of those saw more than 150 finishers on the day – the highest attendance at Northallerton parkrun since the very first event three years ago.
Sarah Beech from Northallerton parkrun tells us more: “It’s amazing how this initiative has brought people in our community together who wouldn’t have found us otherwise. We’ve had several runners, walkers, volunteers and even spectators come along and become part of our parkrun family on the advice of their GP.
People who would never have accessed the event are seeing real benefits in terms of their physical and mental health, and it’s wonderful to see positive changes happening week in week out for people.”
Sue Cann is Practice Manager at Lambert Medical Centre is also thrilled: “We are very proactive regarding discussion of exercise prescribing in different forms, whether it be pilates for back problems or running and fitness classes for other medical conditions such as obesity and depression.
Since we became a parkrun practice, we have found parkrun has provided an accessible, manageable target for such patients. It has been so positive for us to hear feedback from patients when they achieve their goals, including parkrun.
As well as our patients, staff have embraced parkrun too. After holding a takeover at Northallerton parkrun staff have been to parkrun regularly, running for fitness and enjoyment. Some have even signed up for a local 10k later in the year, which they never thought they would be able to achieve, whilst others now take their children to the junior parkrun on Sundays”.
The NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is a group of 22 local GP practices responsible for planning and purchasing of the vast majority of health services across the area is encouraging more practices to join up.
Charles Parker Clinical Chair of the CCG said: “As a CCG we want to encourage people to look after themselves, and this is a great way for patients and GP practices to get involved. I am hugely thankful to all those practices who have chosen to participate in the initiative.
Whether people want to improve their fitness, make new friends, cope with health problems, learn new skills or simply be outside with others, parkrun has a positive impact on health and wellbeing and changes lives. We want to encourage all our GP practices to sign-up and take-over their local parkrun.
The CCG will continue to encourage people to run, walk or volunteer to gain the benefits from the parkrun community.”
Moving south, Suffolk is another county that has embraced the parkrun practice initiative.
Sandra Price from the Barrack Lane Medical Centre in Ipswich shares more about their link with Ipswich parkrun, and the benefits of doing so for practice staff and patients alike.
“We have now been a parkrun practice for a few months. When the initial idea was suggested to the surgery I decided that I needed to try a parkrun to see what it was all about.
Barcode in hand I headed to Ipswich parkrun in Chantry Park and was amazed at the number of people taking part – everyone was friendly and welcoming with words of encouragement on the way round from the volunteers and other participants. I really enjoyed the experience and felt it would be great if the surgery could get involved.
We invited Zoe Knight, Social Prescribing and Partnerships Manager for the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Graham Rodgers, Ipswich parkrun Event Director, to one of our practice meetings where Graham explained the concept behind parkrun to some of our clinical and admin staff and how beneficial it can be to people’s health and wellbeing. I was also able to tell people about my own experience and how I had become a regular at the parkrun.
It was decided that, as a surgery, we would like to be part of the initiative and signed up later that day. The doctors would mention the parkrun to any patients they felt would benefit from taking part and signpost them to our noticeboards. Messages were also sent out to staff to encourage them to take part.
Since our first parkrun, everyone has returned and either run or walked or volunteered. The parkrun is ideal for patients who would benefit from increasing their activity or by having the opportunity to socialise and be part of a friendly community.
The aim of the linkup is to encourage active lifestyles to both patients and staff. I believe if someone is thinking about doing a bit more exercise the parkrun is a great place to start with the added bonus of it being free!
You don’t have to be a runner to take part and you can do it at your own pace as there is no pressure to complete the course in a set time, it’s just about getting out there and being a bit more active. There is lots of support and encouragement along the way from the marshals and many people who have finished stay to cheer others on, plus you can even have a cup of tea afterwards.
If someone doesn’t feel up to the exercise part of it but would like to be involved in the link-up they can volunteer as this is a very important and rewarding aspect of the parkrun. Taking part in a parkrun is a fun, friendly and social start to the weekend which can have a very positive impact on the participant’s mental health.”
Ipswich parkrun Run Director, Graham Rodgers, is proud that his parkrun event is welcoming new parkrunners as a result of the link-up: “The opportunity to encourage and promote the health and wellbeing of individuals, reducing the need for lifelong medication is something that Ipswich parkrun is passionate about.”
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One reason parkrun has grown so quickly is that it’s such a simple concept. Register once, for free, and turn up at one of more than 1,500 parks and open spaces around the world on a Saturday morning. But if you listen carefully, it might seem like there’s a secret code or language being…