RCGP parkrun initiative a 'huge success' as 2,000 GPs take part in local events

Nearly 2,000 GPs across the UK took part in 5km parkrun events to mark the first anniversary of the RCGP's partnership with parkrun UK - twice as many as the college initially hoped.

GP parkrun success (Photo: Caron Watson/Getty Images)
GP parkrun success (Photo: Caron Watson/Getty Images)

A total of 1,988 GPs pledged to take part in their local 5km parkrun event on Saturday 1 June to help celebrate and boost awareness of the ‘parkrun practice’ initiative, which asks GPs to affiliate themselves with their local parkrun and signpost patients and carers - particularly those who are inactive or have long-term health conditions - to the free weekly 5km events.

More than 1,000 practices across the UK have joined the parkrun practice scheme so far, suggesting an increase of roughly 200 over the past month alone.

GPs took to social media throughout the weekend to express support for the collaboration using the hashtag #GPparkrunPledge. Writing on Twitter, Leeds GP Dr Angela Goyal said ‘at least 50 GPs’ took part in her local 5km event.

Also writing on Twitter, RCGP clinical champion for physical activity & lifestyle Dr Zoe Williams - who has been working alongside parkrun UK on the initiative - said: ‘Congratulations to all the GPs and primary care staff who attended @parkrunuk today, especially to those attending for the first time.’

In a separate tweet - posted the day before the anniversary event - Dr Williams celebrated the success of the scheme.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Our partnership with parkrun UK has been a huge success, and I’m delighted that so many GPs signed up to the parkrun pledge to run on Saturday.

‘Taking regular exercise can have enormous benefits on our physical and mental health, and parkrun is a diverse, free and, most importantly, fun way of getting people out and about, fitter and healthier.

‘It was great to hear so many stories from GPs, their teams, and patients who took part in the special event this weekend.’

Healthy lifestyle

By taking part in the free 5km event, GPs can help raise awareness of parkrun amongst healthcare staff and patients and encourage more primary care professionals to get involved.

Events set up by parkrun UK take place at over 500 locations across the UK every Saturday morning and participants are invited to run or walk their local 5km course. They are set up by volunteers and are suitable for people of all ages and abilities.

Speaking in May, Dr Williams said she had heard some ‘incredible stories from patients, their relatives and GP staff’ about the impact parkrun has had on their health.

‘From getting their smile back, to improving their physical health, to feeling a part of their community again, the benefits are wide and varied, and absolutely everyone is welcome,’ she said.

GP parkrun

Dr Simon Tobin, a GP from Southport, said: ‘It’s a win-win situation for my patients and the NHS. Almost every day I invite my patients to come to parkrun and I’ve had successes with people with anxiety, depression, diabetes and heart disease as well as those who want to improve their blood pressure or get fitter.

‘My patients are healthier, happier and on fewer medications, and the NHS saves a fortune on unnecessary drugs and dealing with their side effects.’

Dr Ollie Hart, whose medical centre helped set up Graves parkrun in Sheffield in 2012, said: ‘The close connection between our practice and our local parkrun has had the biggest health impact of anything I have done in my career.

‘Many of the centre’s staff and patients are regular walkers, runners or volunteers, and I know people with multiple sclerosis, diabetes, airway disease, mental health issues and many other health conditions who have all benefited hugely from a life changing association with parkrun.’

NHS England’s national director of strategy and innovation Ian Dodge said: ‘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.’

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