Hussain Al-Zubaidi is a Lifestyle Gp, digital health innovator and run talk run west midland regional lead. He is on Twitter: @zubaidihussain

Shahnaz Hassan is a Psychiatrist and triathlete, and is on Twitter: @ShahnazHassan9

Rebecca Alsop is a GP partner and late onset yoga enthusiast and is on Twitter: @clarlodge

On a bright September morning in 2019 the practice car park was adorned with exercise machines, gazebos and most importantly, our enthusiastic staff ready for the launch of the Clarendon Lodge Medical Practice Fitness Club (CLMPFC). Our aim simply was to get people moving by demonstrating there was an activity suitable for everyone. Tasters from a yoga teacher, spin instructor and even a session from the locally-based rugby team, Wasps RFC, were amongst some of the features on offer.

The Growth Spurt
CLMPFC initially started as an online platform with the aim of encouraging participants to support one another on their fitness journeys. It has expanded to include contributions from those in the wider community who share this passion. Some of these members now form the core team who lead the club. This has allowed the practice to deliver activities directly via the fitness club, including weekly running and walking groups. We have also curated a series of online videos created by the practice team which have formed our Heart & Mind series, focusing on those who are beginning their active journeys.

To affirm our commitment to movement as medicine, we joined the alliance between the RCGP and the global initiative “parkrun” to become a Parkrun Practice. Parkrun is a free weekly timed 5km running event hosted by volunteers, which has demonstrated wide reaching benefits for the community.1 This naturally progressed to joining the RCGP Active Practice Charter. Our success was highlighted by the College after they completed a case study highlighting our projects and inviting us to speak at the RCGP Lifestyle Conference.2

The real-life benefits have been phenomenal.

Before we knew it, our efforts attracted media attention and we were filmed by the BBC for a piece on our role in parkrun. The local news and BBC also helped us to promote our weekly mental health support group ‘’Run Talk Run’’ and the word spread fast with dozens of new recruits. To support and disseminate information, the practice has invested in our social media platforms, which have been shown to be effective tools in promoting the club, with now 1,343 followers.

“It has changed my life”

The Rewards
The real-life benefits have been phenomenal and fuels ongoing enthusiasm for this work. Reflections from those involved include ‘’It has changed my life as I never left the house before’’, ‘’It has really helped me to connect with other people’’ and ‘’I have most enjoyed making the journey with others and seeing people flourish’’. As well as the benefits to mental well-being, there have been many patients who have reduced their consumption of pain-killers. One very enthusiastic participant in the walking group has come off all psychotropic medications for anxiety and depression, and is now keen to reverse her diabetes.

One very enthusiastic participant … has come off all psychotropic medications for anxiety and depression.

One of our aims was to improve community connections and reduce social isolation. We were delighted to see members connecting with each other on social media and meeting up outside the sessions to exercise and socialise together.

The online base from which the club started has allowed us to continue to drive the message during the COVID 19 pandemic when “real-life” group meetings have had to be cancelled. Participants have continued to support one another in their personal journeys with messages of encouragement and offers to meet for one-to-one exercise locally in the second national lockdown. To help keep people motivated into the new year, we launched a collaborative challenge called #pledgeyourgoal aimed at having members share a personal distance goal for 2021. These would be accumulated to set a group goal.

There is a wealth of research on the benefits of physical activity on mental and physical health.

There is a wealth of research on the benefits of physical activity on mental and physical health. Our project has allowed us to witness this first-hand and demonstrate that this can be achieved at a practice or network level. We hope that other practices can incorporate a similar approach. Healthcare is changing with a push towards lifestyle medicine for all: its benefits are invaluable, the costs are low and the side effects are none, so why not tap into this underused resource?

References
1. MORRIS, P., & SCOTT, H. (2019). Not just a run in the park: a qualitative exploration of parkrun and mental health. Advances in Mental Health. 17, 110-123.
2. RCGP CASE STUDY [internet] London: RCGP website: (July 2020), Available from https://www.rcgp.org.uk/-/media/RCGP-CASE-STUDY—Clarendon-Lodge-Practice.ashx?la=en

 

Featured image courtesy of the Clarendon Lodge Medical Practice Fitness Club Team: Dr Hussain Al-Zubaidi (GP), Dr Shahnaz Hassan (Psychiatrist), Mr Stephen Gallagher (Practice Manager), Mr Dominic Shepherd (Social prescriber), Mr Mick Hurrell (Personal Trainer).