Dame Kelly Holmes backs parkrun for the NHS’s 70 birthday on June 9 to get the nation active

Dame Kelly Hole at the NHS Parkrun Day launch with NHS staff

Olympic gold medallist and former nursing assistant Dame Kelly Holmes is urging the nation to get active in the year the NHS turns 70 and take part in a special celebratory parkrun.

The sporting superstar urged people of all ages and abilities to join in a local parkrun for the NHS on Saturday 9 June to celebrate the contribution of the NHS to the nation, whilst encouraging people to get active.

Hundreds of parkruns take place in parks and open spaces across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales every Saturday morning. The community-led events are designed for people of all ages and abilities – including walkers.

Parkrun for the NHS is organised to encourage new participants, including NHS staff and volunteers, to come along to their local parkrun to recognise the contribution of the National Health Service to the health of the nation.

The growing levels of obesity in adults and children is a major health issue for the NHS, as it can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, some types of cancer and stroke. Obesity can also affect quality of life and lead to psychological problems.

The cost to the NHS of treating diabetes alone is around £10 billion every year – nearly 10% of the NHS budget. It is estimated that obesity is responsible for more than 30,000 deaths each year and that obesity could overtake tobacco smoking as the biggest cause of preventable death.

In August 2017, parkrun conducted a UK-wide survey of almost 2,000 healthcare professionals. Over three in every five (63%) responding revealed that they prescribe parkrun in some form, while almost nine in ten (88%) said they would consider referring users to parkrun.

Dame Kelly Holmes, a regular parkrunner who worked as a nursing assistant before going into the British Army and later becoming a full-time athlete, said: “Increased levels of activity leads to improved mood, self-esteem and a wide range of health benefits. I know from first-hand experience how sociable and welcoming parkruns are, so it’s fantastic to see it join forces with the NHS in its 70th year to encourage even more people to get active in this special year.”

Ian Dodge, NHS England’s national director of Strategy and Innovation, said: “With more than half of adults in England currently overweight or obese, it is vital that people get find time in their busy lives to get more active. In the year the NHS turns 70, taking part in this special edition of parkrun is one way to get fitter, feel better and deliver a welcome birthday present for the health service too.”

Chrissie Wellington, Global Head of Health and Wellbeing at parkrun, said: “We are passionate about using parkrun to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and the communities in which they live, and the physical activity element is just the start. Friendship, community cohesion, access to open space, fresh air and skill development through volunteering and just some of the ways that participation in parkrun can have a positive impact on health and happiness.”

Dr Catherine Calderwood, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, said: “We recognise the benefits that being physically active brings for both a person’s mental and physical health and I couldn’t think of anyone better than Dame Kelly Holmes, a passionate parkrunner and former professional athlete, to help us spread this message.”

Dr Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, said: “As a nation, we need to be healthier and more active to help reduce the risk of a range of conditions such as obesity, heart disease and to improve mental health.

“Participating in your local parkrun is a great way to achieve that and as a keen runner, I’m delighted that a community-led organisation has chosen to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS with hundreds of events across the UK. I’ll be on the starting line in Barry Island on the 9th of June, joining in with the parkrun NHS celebrations.”

Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride added: “Being regularly physically active can be hugely beneficial to an individual’s physical, mental and emotional health. parkruns are an excellent way of keeping active, of being social, of making good use of a local environment or resource, and is an activity which the whole family can be involved in.”

Find out how you can get involved