COLUMN: VIBRANT PARKS ARE VITAL TO OUR MENTAL HEALTH

Having access to public parks is important to our health and wellbeing and there are few better green spaces than Levengrove Park right here in Dumbarton.

The multi-million pound regeneration of Levengrove Park by West Dunbartonshire Council has been a real success story. The restoration of its historic features and amenities have made the park’s stunning views of Dumbarton Rock and the River Clyde more popular than ever.

At the heart of Levengrove Park is its new pavilion and café. I was fortunate to be at the official opening of the Pavilion Café and it’s great to see it thriving as a valued local community facility this past year. As a social enterprise the café brings many benefits to the area, including helping local disadvantaged adults and people recovering from mental health issues gain work experience and employability skills.

The Pavilion Café is also proving popular amongst participants in the new Levengrove Parkrun which now takes place every Saturday morning. For anyone unfamiliar with the Parkrun project, it’s a free weekly 5km event designed to get people active by running or walking in local parks and public spaces.

There are Parkrun events taking place across the country, but this is the first to come to West Dunbartonshire and I hope to see it continue going from strength to strength thanks to the hard work of its dedicated volunteers.

Parkrun is a fantastic initiative which is inclusive and helps tackle social isolation. Regardless of age, pace or ability everyone is welcome and of course it doesn’t require any expensive equipment to enjoy walking or jogging round the picturesque route at Levengrove Park.

I look forward to taking part and would encourage anyone interested to get involved. Parkrun activities not only improve physical fitness but can also be hugely beneficial to mental health. Recent studies show that participating in these community events helps reduce stress, depression and anxiety whilst also improving confidence, mood and self-esteem.

There’s also plenty of opportunities to volunteer for people wanting to participate but perhaps unable to run or walk the 5km route. From marshalling to run director, there’s lots of different roles available if you’re able to give some of your time to help.

Recent events have underlined the importance of looking after our mental health and wellbeing. Getting regular physical exercise and volunteering have both been shown to help do just that which is why I support community initiatives like Parkrun.

Even if you’re not sure Parkrun’s for you, there’s plenty of opportunities to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the great facilities Levengrove Park has to offer.

Levengrove Parkrun takes place every Saturday at 9.30am at the new pavilion. For further information visit: www.parkrun.org.uk/levengrove/

This article appeared in the Dumbarton & Vale of Leven Reporter on 25th February 2020

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