Doctors Rangan Chatterjee and Zoe Williams encourage GPs to pledge to parkrun

Publication date: 09 May 2019

TV personality Dr Zoe Williams will be among more than 1,000 GPs and practice staff expected to take part in a special parkrun UK event on Saturday 1 June 2019, which will celebrate the first birthday of the hugely successful parkrun practice initiative. The special event is also being supported by author, GP and star of BBC One's Dr in the House, Dr Rangan Chatterjee, and Chair of the RCGP, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard.

More than 800 general practices have now signed up to be a 'parkrun practice'; linking with their local parkrun event to promote the health and wellbeing of patients and staff, and create entire communities centred on wellness.

parkruns 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. parkruns are socially-focussed with the emphasis on regular participation rather than performance.

To celebrate the first anniversary of the parkrun practice initiative launched by parkrun and the Royal College of General Practitioners in June last year, the two organisations have teamed up to hold a national GP parkrun pledge day. The aim is to get as many general practice staff as possible to pledge in advance, to join thousands of walkers, runners and volunteers at parkrun events across the UK on the same day.

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% increase in the number of participants who were inactive when they registered and 9,000 people participating for the very first time.

On 1 June, general practice staff across the country are being encouraged to pledge to participate in a parkrun event and also to bring their patients, family and friends along to walk, run, volunteer or spectate.

It is hoped that this special day will raise awareness of parkrun across the health sector and help promote sustained participation by those who are least active or have health conditions.

Inactivity is a leading cause of premature illness and death in the UK, and GPs and their teams play a key role in empowering their patients to get more active and improve their health. Thousands of GP practice staff up and down the country, including Dr Andrew Boyd, the RCGP Clinical Champion for Physical Activity and Lifestyle, are encouraging patients to take part in parkrun to help prevent, treat or improve common conditions such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. Andrew said: "parkrun provides an accessible, unintimidating local opportunity for patients and staff to increase their activity levels, and have fun doing it, all in the great outdoors – and for free."

Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Author, GP and star of BBC One's Dr in the House, said: "It is becoming more and more common for a patient's symptoms to be caused by our collective modern lifestyles. For many, it is a change in lifestyle that will address the root cause of the problem and have a lasting impact, rather than a pill that often will only suppress their symptoms.  At a time when the NHS is under huge pressure – with prescriptions alone costing around £10 billion every year – equipping healthcare professionals to prescribe a lifestyle change, where appropriate, is extremely important. Nationwide initiatives such as parkrun that are accessible to everyone, free and socially-focussed have the potential to help people take their first steps to a healthier and happier lifestyle, and in doing so relieve some of the strain on our health service. I take part in parkrun with my family every weekend and have seen first hand the benefits it brings to individuals and whole communities. With 800 practices now signed up to be a 'parkrun practice' we are starting to embed the links between primary care and voluntary sector organisations, and build strong, supportive communities that are focused on health creation. The GP parkrun pledge day is a really important way of maintaining that momentum and celebrating the progress that has been made".

Dr Zoe Williams, RCGP Clinical Champion for Physical Activity & Lifestyle and TV Doctor said: "The parkrun practice initiative has been a huge success so far, with over 800 practices signing up in the first year. We've heard incredible stories from patients, their relatives and GP staff. 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. So please help us to spread the word and get as many GP practice staff as possible to pledge to walk, run or volunteer at a parkrun on 1st June."

Professor Helen Stokes Lampard, GP and Chair of RCGP said: "The RCGP partnership with parkrun has captured the imagination of GPs and their teams right around the UK. The walk or run approach makes exercise accessible and inclusive, and the pledge day on 1st June is a good way of encouraging more practices to sign up and take part."

For more details see the GP parkrun pledge day event and find your nearest parkrun.

Further Information

parkrun UK media contact

Comms Executive: Tom Fairbrother

RCGP media contacts

RCGP Press Office

Notes to editor

In June 2018, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and parkrun UK launched a ground-breaking initiative to promote the social prescribing of physical activity. This builds on the NHS’s commitment, under it’s 10 Year Plan, to encourage the use of non-medical interventions to address the underlying causes of ill health.

Under the ‘parkrun practice’ initiative, general practice staff are being encouraged to develop closer links with their local parkrun to become certified ‘parkrun practices’. As part of this, patients and carers are being signposted to parkrun, particularly those who are the least active and have long-term health conditions. Over 800 practices across the UK have now registered to be a parkrun practice, with more being added each week.

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