Knee pain helped by parkrun fun

New research from the University of Tasmania’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research has found that the community event parkrun can be safe, fun and enjoyable for people with knee osteoarthritis.

This pilot study is the first to investigate the feasibility of parkrun for people with a specific chronic disease. These results present an exciting opportunity to promote parkrun for people with knee osteoarthritis.

Knee osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and causes pain and reduced function in the joint. This can impact on people’s ability and willingness to participate in physical activity and exercise. However, exercise is known to be one of the best treatments.

Associate Professor Dawn Aitken, leader of the Musculoskeletal Health and Disease Theme at the Menzies Institute, said this was where the idea for involving parkrun in her research came from.

“It’s a global phenomenon of free, 5km walk or run events held once per week in public green spaces. There are over 400 sites in Australia and 2,200 worldwide. We asked 17 people with knee osteoarthritis and low physical activity levels to walk in four weekly parkruns at the Queens Domain in Hobart.”

“We found that people with knee osteoarthritis can participate in parkrun and find it enjoyable. Attending one parkrun event per week for four weeks resulted in large improvements in symptoms and an increase in overall physical activity levels.”

PhD Candidate Laura Sutton said the research supported the participants every step of the way. “While some volunteers with knee osteoarthritis were apprehensive about participating, with support from our study staff, many of them were able to do so and enjoyed themselves.”

Distinguished Professor Alison Venn, Director of the Menzies Institute, said the research provided evidence of a fun, easily accessible and community-based way to improve knee pain and physical activity levels.

“There is great potential for community activities such as parkrun to promote physical activity in people with chronic diseases like osteoarthritis. The ‘parkrun Practice’ initiative has recently been launched in Australia, encouraging GPs to refer their patients to parkrun. Our study supports the opportunity for GPs to recommend parkrun to people with knee pain.”

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