With over 200,000 events worldwide,
parkrun is one of the most inclusive physical activity initiatives around. The free, weekly, 5km timed runs are open to people of all abilities, from first-timers to Olympic athletes.
At the moment, around 9% of people participating in parkrun have some form of disability or long-term health condition. Through their PROVE project, parkrun are trying to increase the number of people living with disabilities or long-term health conditions taking part, whether that's through walking, running or volunteering.
The PROVE project focuses on a broad range of conditions including asthma, blood pressure, dementia, diabetes, learning disabilities, endometriosis, deaf and hard of hearing, autism and obesity. Parkrun are also starting to further engage with other conditions such as mental health, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and arthritis.
Our researchers at the University's
Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) have been asked to evaluate the effectiveness of this project.
How we're helping
Our researchers are conducting a three-year evaluation study which will involve our researchers talking to parkrunners to understand the prevalence of different health conditions in the parkrun community.
The evaluation aims to demonstrate whether the PROVE project has been successful in improving the experience of parkrun by parkrunners with long-term health conditions.
We also want to identify ways to make parkrun more accessible for non-parkrunners living with long-term health conditions.
The findings so far
Since the evaluation launched last year, our research has found that the PROVE project is making good progress.
Our observations show that a range of interventions and activities have been implemented to date, such as producing condition-specific accessibility guidelines for parkrun event teams, recruiting outreach ambassadors for each condition group, takeover events, blog posts, newsletters, and other interventions such as a new sign language support volunteer role.
Facebook groups have been created for the condition groups, attracting a growing figure of nearly 4,000 people. This provides a supportive place for parkrunners to share experiences and advice with others who have the same health conditions.
The focus now needs to be on how we better understand the range of conditions parkrunners have, and the barriers that non-parkrunners face, so we can support them to become active through parkrun – and ultimately help them improve their quality of life.