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September 6, 2018 | 3 minute read

Making It Social: Community Events Can Help You Get Active

Crisp and cool, autumn weather can inspire you to get active or boost your current activity. Moving your body daily plays an important role in lowering your risk for cancer and boosting your overall health. AICR’s second cancer prevention recommendation says: “Be physically active as part of everyday life – walk more and sit less.”

There are many  ways to start being more physically active, but keeping it up longer-term can be  challenging. Some research points to two factors that can contribute to long term success:  having support and being accountable either to someone or something, such as  a cause. This may include being active with family or friends, attending a class, or participating in community events that revolve around being physically active on a regular basis.

A great example of a community experience for getting active is the global movement called parkrun. Parkrun began in 2004 in the UK with the idea to offer a weekly, free 5K event for anyone who wanted to participate. From those beginnings, there are now parkrun events in 20 countries with over 3 million runners taking part in a weekly 5K. Parkrun events emphasize fun, a sense of community and volunteerism. These events are coordinated and staffed entirely by  volunteers, so everyone is encouraged to take a turn at helping make the events happen.

At a typical parkrun event you’ll see children and adults of all ages running or walking with strollers, dogs (or both). One Parkrun participant and volunteer in the  DC Metro Area, Pam, says it has become a habit, “I love parkrun because it’s every week. I need routines and I need structure. And when you see the same group of people week after week, you forge strong bonds. From the first time I sensed that there was something special about parkrun.”

There is a growing body of research on many aspects of the Parkrun phenomenon. One area is how Parkrun helps individuals transition from being inactive to being active through social inclusion and a shared experience. They’ve found that participants value the comradery and the diversity of age and abilities of people running and walking.

In one study, the authors quote a participant who enjoyed the social support she’s found:

“When people come through the finish line…they’re all cheering you on and, you know, it just gives a real boost…supporting me through the last little bit when I was struggling. That happens all the time.”

Pam agrees, saying “I didn’t start going to parkrun for support, but I realized somewhere along the line that it is a very supportive, nurturing environment. And don’t tell anyone, but the support I receive is really helpful.”

While participants have different motivations and interests in the event, one 10-year-old parkrun regular who also runs cross country, says she enjoys the competition, but she also nicely summed up why people come out week after week, saying “it’s fun and you get a great work-out!”

In whatever way you choose to get active, find something easy to access, keep track of your progress, get support and make it enjoyable!

See more about parkrun in the US and find out if you have one in your area. Learn more if you want to start one in your hometown.

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