Intended for healthcare professionals


Prescribe parkrun, not drugs, GPs are told

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 21 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2746
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

General practices are being encouraged to develop closer links with their local parkrun scheme and “prescribe” outdoor physical activity rather than drugs to patients, under a new initiative backed by the Royal College of General Practitioners.

There are currently over five hundred 5 km parkrun events and 220 junior parkrun events operating across the UK, coordinated by local volunteers.

The new initiative, launched by the RCGP in partnership with parkrun, aims to increase awareness of the events among GP practices, and encourage clinicians to signpost patients to local parkrun events. The scheme will place particular emphasis on reaching those who are the least active and have long term health conditions, highlighting the fact that parkrun is aimed at people of all ages and abilities, who can either run or walk along the different routes.

Andrew Boyd, the RCGP’s clinical champion for physical activity and lifestyle, said, “Inactivity is a leading cause of premature illness and death in the UK. GPs and their teams play a key role in encouraging and empowering their patients to get more active in the interests of their health. parkrun provides an accessible and non-intimidating opportunity for patients and staff to increase their activity levels, and have fun doing it, all in the great outdoors—and free.”

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 problems, and many other health conditions who have all benefited from their association with parkrun.”

Glasgow GP and The BMJ columnist Margaret McCartney, said, “I love parkrun and am a committed volunteer and runner. It’s one of the highlights of my week. However, I think we should be very wary of ‘prescribing’—the last thing we need is for healthcare professionals to be the only conduit to exercise, community, and open spaces. We need to normalise exercise, not medicalise it. Community led initiatives like parkrun work because they are by and for the community—and this model works.

“It would be a great thing if funding was made available by central government to allow parkrun to thrive without sponsorship from supplement manufacturers and private health insurers.”

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