GPs to recommend parkrun for Scots patients

Health leaders are encouraging Scots to take part in their local parkrun as part of an initiative to see patients 'prescribed' outdoor physical activity instead of medication.

The parkrun at Cramond, which is staged every Saturday. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The free parkrun events, run by volunteers, see thousands of runners complete 5km courses in parks on Saturday mornings across the country.

GP practices will be encouraged to develop closer links with their local parkrun to become certified “parkrun practices”, with healthcare practitioners signposting patients and carers to the events, particularly those who are the least active and have long-term health conditions.

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The UK-wide initiative, launched in collaboration with the Royal College of General Practitioners, builds on research conducted by parkrun UK in 2017 which revealed that hundreds of healthcare practitioners are already recommending the wide-ranging benefits of active lifestyles to health and well-being to their patients.

It aims to further increase awareness among GPs, and all practice staff, of parkrun and the positive impact physical activity can have on health and well-being.

There are currently 38 parkrun events in Scotland and 13 junior parkruns stretching the length and breadth of the country from Dumfries to Shetland. The free initiative started in London’s Bushy Park 15 years ago and has become a global phenomenon.

It consists of runners being issued with their own barcode to help record their finishing time and all competitors have to do is register online, print out their barcode and turn up.

Vikki Brown, 40, from Edinburgh, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis three years ago welcomed the initiative and described how parkrun started her running.

She said: “I think that’s a positive approach in encouraging people to be active and keep themselves healthy.

“I did pakrun initially as a booster to get me started with running as exercise is good for cystic fibrosis as it gets the lungs moving and it clears the mucus that can build up.

“It got me running more steadily and I now run a few times a week of my own accord. But it was the parkrun that got me doing longer distances.

“The thing that is good about parkrun is that because there’s lots of people doing it you can pace yourself a bit better so you don’t have to go out sprinting hard unless you’re feeling really keen.

“The first time I did it I was at the back but it still helps build up your confidence.

“There’s a good atmosphere and the Edinburgh one that I go to is massive.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Small, often simple, lifestyle changes can have a really positive impact on our health and well-being, so anything that encourages patients to live better and move more is a good thing. Parkrun is a diverse, fun and free way of getting our patients up and moving about, and empowering them to make basic lifestyle changes in the best interests of their long-term health.”