General practice parkrun initiative up and running

On 1 June, GP practices across Yorkshire and the Humber will be celebrating the first anniversary of the parkrun practice initiative.

More than 900 general practices across England have now signed up to be a ‘parkrun practice’; linking with their local parkrun events to promote the health and wellbeing of patients and staff.

parkrun are volunteer-led 5k events that take place each Saturday morning across the UK and are open to walkers, runners and volunteers of all ages and abilities. There are currently 620 such events, with about 150,000 people taking part every single weekend.

To celebrate the anniversary of the initiative, parkrun and The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) have again teamed up to organise a national GP parkrun Pledge Day.

The aim is to encourage GPs and general practice staff across the UK to pledge, in advance, to join thousands of walkers, runners and volunteers at parkrun events on Saturday 1 June.

The GP parkrun pledge day is the first event of its type, and builds on the success of last year’s celebration across hundreds of parkruns to mark the NHS’s 70th birthday.

That day saw more than 146,000 people take part in parkrun, with a 14 per cent increase in the number of participants who were inactive when they registered and 9,000 people participating for the very first time.

One such practice embracing the pledge is Priory Medical Group in York. GP Partner, Abbie Brooks, said: “I started parkrun two years ago after ‘graduating’ the couch to 5k programme. It didn’t take long for it to become a fixed part of my Saturday morning routine.

“I find the physical activity element important but parkrun has huge psychological and social benefits for me, it’s an hour or two out of the busy working mum life where I get to enjoy some headspace and a post run coffee with friends.

“I organised a practice parkrun takeover in March of this year, practice staff filled the 30+ volunteer slots and many of our patients and staff walked or ran the 5k in wild wind and rain. A fantastic time was had by all.

“We are very excited for the GP pledge parkrun and will be on the start line at Heslington parkrun at 9am!”

NHS England’s National Director of Strategy and Innovation, and passionate parkrunner, Ian Dodge, is among those championing the parkrun practices initiative and the Pledge Day.

He said: “What a start! 800 parkrun practices in just one year is a hugely impressive achievement. It’s more than 10 per cent of the country. If parkrun and the RCGP can keep up this momentum, the majority of GP practices in England will be involved within another four years. And thousands more people would benefit from the green spaces, the fresh air, the exercise, and above all the companionship and sense of community.

“parkrun is always there for you, every Saturday morning. It first got me into running back in 2006 when it was called the Bushy Park Time Trial. The event on 1st June will be very special, and I’m really looking forward to tying my laces.”

GPs and TV personalities Dr Zoe Williams and Dr Rangan Chatterjee, as well as the Chair of the RCGP, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, are also lending their support.

It is hoped that the Pledge Day on 1 June will help raise awareness of parkrun across the health sector, encourage practice staff to signpost patients and service users to parkrun and promote sustained participation by those who are least active or have health conditions.

All the information about the parkrun Pledge Day, including the pledge form, can be found here

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