Health and wellbeing volunteering: The power of parkrun

Being a volunteer Ambassador for Health and Wellbeing at parkrun for 7 years has been transformational for me, my staff, and my patients.

As many of you will know, parkruns are free, weekly, timed 5km events happening every Saturday at 9am in 900 locations across the UK and 2,200 events in 22 different countries across the world. Everyone’s welcome to come along to walk, jog, run and volunteer. There are over 400 junior parkruns on Sundays in the UK and Ireland too. parkruns are a wonderful opportunity to forge and strengthen connections within communities whilst doing some physical activity in green spaces – what’s not to like? They’re organised by community volunteers, for the community.

My involvement with parkrun has enabled me to meet so many wonderful people. I’ve encouraged well over 100 of my patients to come down to my local parkrun in Southport and I’ve seen lives transformed – hypertension controlled, mental health improved, confidence and self-esteem grown, simply by coming along to parkrun. I’ve made some great friends and bumping into patients has helped me appreciate and understand them as people, set in context rather than simply as “patients”. It’s some of the best medicine I’ve ever “prescribed”.

The parkrun practice initiative launched six years ago and is a wonderful way for practices to link with their local parkrun. There’s more information on the parkrun practice webpage. Over 20% of UK practices (that’s more than 20%) have now linked to their local parkrun(s) - if your practice hasn’t, why not? It’s easy, free, fun and a great way to improve the mental and physical health of staff and patients alike.

About the writers


Dr Simon Tobin

Dr Simon Tobin

Dr Simon Tobin, Norwood Surgery, Southport. An NHS GP for 28 years, he is the Lead for Diabetes and is a GP trainer. He enjoys offering lifestyle change as a possible alternative to medication and has been privileged to see many patients reverse or dramatically improve their diabetes as a consequence. He cares passionately about food and enjoys championing local producers who farm in ethically sound and sustainable ways. He loves running and swimming in wild spaces. He has a voluntary role as an Ambassador for Health and Wellbeing for parkrun.