Exploring the benefits of participation in community-based running and walking events: a cross-sectional survey of parkrun participants
journal contributionposted on 03.11.2021, 10:07 by Helen Quirk, Alice Bullas, Steve Haake, Elizabeth Goyder, Mike Graney, Chrissie Wellington, Robert Copeland, Lindsey Reece, Clare StevinsonClare Stevinson
Whilst the benefits of physical activity for health and wellbeing are recognised, population levels of activity remain low. Significant inequalities exist, with socioeconomically disadvantaged populations being less physically active and less likely to participate in community events. We investigated the perceived benefits from participation in a weekly running/walking event called parkrun by those living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas and doing the least physical activity.
A cross-sectional online survey was emailed to 2,318,135 parkrun participants in the UK. Demographic and self-reported data was collected on life satisfaction, happiness, health status, physical activity, motives, and the perceived benefits of parkrun. Motivation, health status and benefits were compared for sub-groups defined by physical activity level at parkrun registration and residential Index of Multiple Deprivation.
60,000 completed surveys were received (2.7% of those contacted). Respondents were more recently registered with parkrun (3.1 v. 3.5 years) than the parkrun population and had a higher frequency of parkrun participation (14.5 v. 3.7 parkruns per year). Those inactive at registration and from deprived areas reported lower happiness, lower life satisfaction and poorer health compared to the full sample. They were more likely to want to improve their physical health, rather than get fit or for competition. Of those reporting less than one bout of activity per week at registration, 88% (87% in the most deprived areas) increased their physical activity level and 52% (65% in the most deprived areas) reported improvements to overall health behaviours. When compared to the full sample, a greater proportion of previously inactive respondents from the most deprived areas reported improvements to fitness (92% v. 89%), physical health (90% v. 85%), happiness (84% v. 79%) and mental health (76% v. 69%).
The least active respondents from the most socioeconomically deprived areas reported increases to their activity levels and benefits to health and wellbeing since participating in parkrun. Whilst the challenge of identifying how community initiatives like parkrun can better engage with underrepresented populations remains, if this can be achieved they could have a critical public health role in addressing inequalities in benefits associated with recreational physical activity.
HQ is funded by a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Public Health Research (SPHR) post-doctoral launching fellowship.
- Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences