Blog: 18 November 2019Health and Wellbeing: As Easy as a Run in the Park

Luke Hillson

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Luke Hillson

Design Director

Birmingham office

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It's 9am Saturday morning, the sun is out, my trainers are on and I'm surrounded by 500 other people, ready to run 5k around my local park in Leamington Spa. Stick with me!...

With the ever-increasing focus on the benefit increased physical activity and exposure to green space has on our health and wellbeing, we as masterplanners and urban designers, have a vital job to do – to design (and regenerate in fact) built environments to facilitate and encourage this, placing health and wellbeing at the heart.

Connectivity plays a huge part in achieving this by designing each route to encourage active travel, facilitate opportunity for walking and cycling and provide open spaces for people to relax, enjoy and socialise. Through techniques such as incorporating recreational walking/cycling routes and loops through and around developments, providing local facilities within walking distance of all homes and a variation of green spaces - think beyond a park - verges, growing spaces, wildlife corridors, we can easily keep our communities active, not only physically but socially too. By creating a physical environment which promotes activity you naturally gain a vibrant active and cohesive community – which is quite a special combination. It’s proven that successful urban areas depend on successful green infrastructure, thus combined with social, happy, healthy people, we improve places, towns and cities.

Anyway… back to my Saturday morning 5k run in the park, otherwise known as parkrun. For me, parkrun encompasses all these key design considerations – green space, community, connectivity, health and wellbeing. It’s my weekly opportunity to exercise in my local park, connecting with nature and my community and I love it. It reinforces what is important to me, so that when I sit down to design my next project, that spark I feel when running a parkrun course is woven into my work. Which got me thinking, imagine weaving parkruns into all new places/communities?!...

For those that haven't yet been to a parkrun, you should, and once you do you'll be hooked like me! Parkruns are just that, a free 5km run (or walk or jog) around a park local to you, marshalled by volunteers. They run at 9am on Saturday mornings in over 1,000 towns and cities throughout the world, 600 of which are across the UK - so there’s bound to be one nearby. Give it a whirl!

In a recent independently commissioned survey, Parkrun has proven that participation in their weekly events really does make people healthier and happier, and not just from running or walking. So, when you spot a 5km parkrun weaving its way around my masterplans, you'll now know why!

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Health, Wellbeing, Greenspace, Placemaking, Community