RCGP has teamed up with Parkrun UK to urge GP practices to ‘prescribe’ running to their patients, in a bid to improve health and wellbeing.
It said the ‘ground-breaking initiative’ could see ‘thousands of patients’ being ‘prescribed outdoor physical activity rather than medication’.
Under the partnership, practices will be encouraged to link up with their local Parkrun to become ‘certified parkrun practices’.
Parkrun events are free, weekly 5k races in local parks which take place every Saturday morning across the UK, and there are also 2k events for children.
Parkrun practices will signpost patients and their carers to Parkrun, ‘particularly those who are the least active and have long-term health conditions’, the RCGP said.
RCGP clinical champion for physical activity and lifestyle Dr Andrew Boyd said this comes as ‘inactivity is a leading cause of premature illness and death in the UK’ and ‘GPs and their teams play a key role in encouraging and empowering their patients to get more active in the best interests of their health’.
Parkrun said its research showed GPs and other practice staff ‘are already signposting people to Parkrun to great effect’ and its wants ‘to scale this up’.
Signed-up practices will receive guidance and ideas as part of the RCGP’s Physical Activity and Lifestyle clinical programme. Practice staff will also be encouraged to take part in Parkrun.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Small, often simple, lifestyle changes can have a really positive impact on our health and wellbeing, 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 and wellbeing.’
Southport GP Dr Simon Tobin said he invites his patients to Parkrun ‘almost every day’.
He said: ‘I have 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.’
It comes as last month the RCGP called for social prescribers to be put in every GP practice to end an ‘epidemic’ of loneliness.