A health and fitness phenomena is well and truly underway amongst the over 50s and nowhere is this more evident than in the truly incredible statistic that over three million miles were completed in total by this age group at parkrun events in 2015.
parkrun itself is seeing unprecedented growth and is now the largest running event in the world, with nearly 2.2 million registered runners and 140,000 individuals participating for free every week at around 800 locations worldwide.
The popularity of parkrun with the over 50s is testament to the inclusive and friendly nature of the events. And the UK is leading the way, with two million miles run by Brits over the age of 50 at parkrun in 2015.
The scale of this achievement suggests that despite the apparent doom and gloom, there are tens of thousands of people in the UK being encouraged to exercise more regularly, and to improve their health and wellbeing through free initiatives such as parkrun.
In December 2015, England’s chief medical officer suggested that obesity poses such a threat to the country that it should be treated as a “national risk” alongside terrorism.
Furthermore, recent reports suggest there is an alarming increase in older people suffering from diabetes, with figures suggesting that between 15 and 20 per cent of those in their 60s and 70s are now suffering from the condition.
And yet the evidence supporting the positive impact of health and exercise for older people is well documented.
The recent Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Sporting Future report stated “The benefit of engaging those groups that typically do little or no activity (including older people) is immense…” and “…older people taking part in a walking group can have huge benefits for those individuals, both for their health and in tackling issues like loneliness.”
Last month, 92-year-old Norman Phillips (pictured above) became the oldest person to complete 100 parkruns, a milestone achievement for every parkrunner that is celebrated throughout the parkrun community. Norman, who is originally from Newcastle but now lives in Australia, took up running in his 60s and has never looked back.
Managing Director of parkrun Tom Williams said:
“We are seeing phenomenal growth in the number of people participating at parkruns here in the UK and are soon to welcome our one millionth unique participant. It is especially pleasing to see the popularity of parkrun with slightly older participants. Our events are led by volunteers and are open to runners, joggers and walkers of all abilities, creating a safe environment for everyone from seasoned runners to those who experience an enormous sense of achievement simply by walking the full distance.
“parkrun is committed to breaking down barriers to participation in regular physical activity for older people, a group that is typically less likely to play sport and be active than the population in general. I would encourage anyone, whatever age, to find their nearest parkrun and come and join in – I’m sure you’ll have fun and feel fitter too.”