Can running make us happier?
- September 5, 2018
- Posted by: TESOL Direct
- Category: Sample Lessons
Regular exercise is good for you. It reduces your risk of a large number of diseases, improves sleep quality and boosts energy. But if these aren’t enough reasons to start in a gym, are they enough to start you running?
Nowadays, people of all ages and abilities are running regularly in their local parks. One way to do this is with Parkrun. It’s free to register and, best of all, it makes you happier! It’s not a race, and people walk/run at their own speed for five kilometres. People from 5 to 105 are now running (or walking) regularly in their parks either by themselves or with friends and family. Parkrun was started in the UK by Paul Sinton-Hewitt in 2004.
In a new study of more than 8,000 people by Glasgow Caledonian University, 89% said that participating in Parkrun has made them feel happier. Happiness was measured using the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire, in which participants self-score questions from 1 (unhappy) to 6 (extremely happy). Parkrun participants scored an average of 4.4, compared to the general population, who score an average 4.
Running regularly has positive physical effects on the body. One other reason why Parkrun has such a positive impact, is its sense of community. Ian Young is a run director for Parkrun in County Durham. He says: “There is a huge sense of belonging and achievement when people run. When people run with friends and family, this feeling is even stronger. Parkrun is a great way to meet up to run, socialise and make new friends. This helps to provide people with a great support network.”
A survey in 2017 showed that GPs, nurses and physiotherapists now even ‘prescribe’ Parkrun to their patients. Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who started Parkrun in 2004, said: “Belonging to a social and supportive network like Parkrun brings a feeling of achievement and happiness.”
The study by Glasgow Caledonian University discovered something else as well. Social media via the Internet can often be a source of anxiety and can reduce self-esteem. People can spend a lot of time comparing themselves unfavourably with other people. However, some networks can be very helpful. Almost 30% of all park runs with Parkrun are now uploaded on to the athletes’ social network, Strava. The good news is that 83% of people using it said that they were more motivated to exercise because of Strava.
Edited for classroom use from original text by Kate Carter ‘The Guardian’ Wed 25 April 2018.
Suggested lesson plan for students at intermediate level.
A recording of the passage.
A printed version of the text.
Enough copies of the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire to give one to each student.
Step 1) How many of you like to exercise or do one or more sports? What sort of exercise/sports do you like to do?
List them on the board (gym, swimming, running, football, yoga and so on).
Do a survey to find out how many people do each one. Some students may do several.
Step 2) Why do people exercise / do sports? (health, feel good, mental health, slimming etc) List the reasons on the board. Ask students to arrange them in order of importance.
Step 3) Write Parkrun on the board. Ask the students if they have heard about this. Elicit what it involves and what its aim is, or give them a very brief introduction.
Step 4) Tell the class that you are going to play them a recording about Parkrun. Ask them to listen carefully and then to tell you what the writer’s aim is with this passage. (Ans: to introduce / outline what Parkrun is all about)
Step 5) Tell the students to listen again and tell you what they have learned about Parkrun. If necessary, play a second time.
Step 6) Tell the students to listen again to establish what the numbers in the text refer to: 5/105, 2004, 8000, 89%, 1 to 6, 4.4, 4, 2004, 30%, 83%. If necessary, play the recording more than once.
Step 7) Ask them to tell you what they like most about Parkrun.
Step 8) Ask the students to tell you what advantages there are in taking part. List them on the board.
It reduces your risk of a large number of diseases, improves sleep quality and boosts energy.It’s free.
It makes you feel happier.
It has positive physical effects on your body.
It’s not a race and people run at their own speed.
It encourages a sense of community.
There is a huge sense of belonging and achievement when people run.
It is a great way to meet up to run, socialise and make new friends.
It gives a feeling of achievement and happiness.
Step 9) Ask them to work in pairs to prioritise this list. Feedback from the pairs.
Step 10) Ask the students whether they would like to take part in Parkrun. If there is a show of interest, tell them where the nearest Parkrun will take place, and when. How many would like to take part?
Step 11) Hand out the written text. Tell the students to read it through silently.
Step 12) Ask them whether they are surprised or not by the number 1,755,749.
Step 13) Ask the students, do you think it is a good idea to ‘prescribe’ Parkrun? Why?
Step 14) Put the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire onto a screen so all students can see it. Hand out a sheet of paper so that each student can tick their responses. Tell them NOT to put their name on the paper. Simple put a tick in the appropriate box.
A copy of the questionnaire can be found here:
Step 15) Ask the students what they think of the questionnaire. Discuss its value.
Tell the students that they can find out more about their score here:
Step 16) Tell the students to write a passage of about 250 words on Parkrun.