It is well documented that parkrun can be a catalyst for improving physical fitness and supporting positive mental health. The weekly events bring communities together and can help combat social isolation. For nearly 16 years and across more than 2,000 locations worldwide, parkrun has contributed to healthier and happier communities.
But in March this year as the Coronavirus took hold, and right when people needed it the most, parkrun events were temporarily paused.
Five months later and as autumn and winter approaches in the northern hemisphere we face the very real prospect that we are walking into a public health crisis. Whole populations are less healthy, less active, and less happy. We’re more isolated, anxious and stressed.
In short, from a health and wellbeing perspective, we’re not giving ourselves the best chance of optimising our health and wellbeing as we head into the colder months.
So as we look forward, it’s clear that outdoor sport and physical activity events have a huge role to play. They bring people together, they give people purpose, they enhance community cohesion, and they get people moving.
But parkrun is a community event that operates in a public setting. Across the population right now there is, understandably, a level of fear and anxiety about what the right thing to do is. This isn’t helped by the lack of data, science and information on which activities and settings are more or less risky than others.
That’s why we’ve commissioned Professor Mike Weed of Canterbury Christ Church University’s Centre for Sport, Physical Education and Activity Research (SPEAR) to conduct a rapid review into outdoor transmissions of COVID-19 to help support decision making around the reopening of parkruns in the UK. This review and outcome will help other countries, including the USA, be more informed about the safety and possibility of reopening events.
One of the assumptions in the UK recovery plan, and those of many other countries, is that the risk of transmission of the virus is lower outdoors.
The review will seek evidence of incidents of outdoor transmission of Covid-19, including the settings, environment and circumstances of such transmission, as well as comparing the rates of transmission to those occurring indoors. The purpose of the review is to inform discussions about the re-commencement of outdoor activities generating large or mass gatherings.
Tom Williams, Chief Operating Officer of parkun, said: “Outdoor events have the potential to not only significantly increase physical fitness, but support positive mental health, bring communities together, and combat social isolation. As autumn approaches however, and the weather deteriorates, people are likely to spend more time indoors, less time being active, and less time socialising. If the evidence shows the risk of COVID-19 transmission in outdoor settings is as low as has been assumed then we should do all we can to reopen physical activity events, from mass participation to small local gatherings.”
Professor Weed said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is both a global health crisis, and a civic emergency for national governments. Many of the activities we took for granted, including mass participation sporting events such as running, have been cancelled. The assumption is generally made that the risk of Covid-19 transmission is lower outdoors, and so by reviewing incidents and examples of outdoor transmission, and the circumstances in which they occur, we aim to be help to support events, such as the popular parkrun, to understand how and when it might be appropriate to re-start their events in a safe way. The review could also help to inform discussions on the re-commencement of activities that generate mass gatherings in other sectors such as concerts, carnivals and festivals.”
Results from the review will be published next month.
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