published by Wangaratta Chronicle
IT was a cold Saturday morning in winter in Apex Park Wangaratta, 8am, temperature one degree Celsius. I found myself at the start line with many other walkers, joggers and runners waiting for the run director’s start whistle. This was the weekly 5km Parkrun event I had been eagerly waiting for the whole week.
Parkrun is a free, weekly, timed, community event all around the world organised by the local volunteers which is accessible to all.
Starting in the UK back in 2004, it has since expanded to 22countries. More than five million people have participated in Parkrun to date and the concept is simple, just turn up on a Saturday morning and walk, jog or run a 5km distance.
As health professionals, why are we talking about Parkrun? Although the COVID pandemic took centre stage the last couple of years, the real pandemic has been the ever-increasing chronic diseases over the last few decades; Ischaemic Heart Disease, Type II Diabetes, Hypertension, Obesity and Mental Health issues to name a few. Every day, thousands of people all around the world die from these chronic health conditions and millions more have significantly reduced quality of life.
Sadly, almost all the treatments we have for these conditions will not address the actual cause, and are not going to cure the patients. Most chronic health conditions are caused by lack of physical activity and poor eating habits. In order to improve or reverse these conditions, we need to be more physically active on a regular basis. This is where exercise plays a major role.
As a GP, I am always looking for ways to encourage patients to improve their health and wellbeing. I have seen and experienced many great things about Parkrun so I always take the opportunity to introduce Parkrun to my patients. There are no age limits so everyone from children to the elderly at all fitness levels are welcome.
Research has found that participants showed sustained improvements in fitness, physical activity levels and body mass index, with greater health benefits observed the more they attended.
These physical changes will prevent most of the chronic health conditions from ever occurring and will also improve disease outcomes for people who have already got them. The benefits of the Parkrun are not only improved physical health but improved mental health as well.
Parkrun was found to create opportunities for more social interactions, allowing people to interact with others who are supportive and nonjudgmental.
The Royal College of General Practitioners in Australia has partnered with Parkrun Australia, encouraging medical practices to sign up to become certified Parkrun practices that prescribe the program to the patients.
South Wangaratta and Docker Street General Medical Centres in Wangaratta were two of the earliest clinics to register in the program. Parkrun is one of the best examples of an ever-growing global movement with the potential to improve population health and well-being on a larger scale. It’s never too late to start exercising and take control in your health – see you all in the next Parkrun.
For your closest Parkrun, visit parkrun.com.au.