Veterans get creative to stay active

  • Veterans and their families are being encouraged to do a creative ‘virtual’ parkrun as a way to stay active during this difficult year.
  • Collaboration between Veteran Sport Australia, parkrun Australia and Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling.
  • Innovative initiative is part of Veterans’ Health Week 2020, which runs from 24 October to 1 November, and coincides with the two year anniversary of the Invictus Games Sydney 2018.

23 October 2020 – Veteran Sport Australia is collaborating with parkrun Australia and Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling to encourage veterans and their families to do a 5km walk, jog or run during Veterans’ Health Week 2020, which kicks off on Saturday, 24 October.

As part of the initiative, veterans will join the ‘Team Veteran’ parkrun Club, which will connect the veteran community over the parkrun platform.

With COVID-19 restrictions in place around the country meaning that many in-person parkrun events are still closed, veterans and their families are being encouraged to do a ‘(not)parkrun’ – the virtual version of parkrun where individuals do a 5km route at any time, at any place and at any pace.

The initiative is linked to Veterans’ Health Week, a week promoted by the Department of Veterans Affairs to bring attention to the health and wellbeing of Australia’s veteran community. This year’s theme is ‘social connection’.

The innovative (not)parkrun initiative also coincides with the two year anniversary of the Invictus Games Sydney 2018.

There are approximately 640,000 veterans in Australia, with 5,500-6,000 servicemen and women transitioning out of the Australian Defence Force every year, 18% of whom do so for medical reasons. A study using data from 2015 estimated that 46% of ADF members who had transitioned from full-time service within the past five years met 12-month diagnostic criteria for a mental health disorder. 

James Brown, Chairman, Veteran Sport Australia 

“We’re delighted to be working with parkrun Australia and Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling. 2020 has been an extremely challenging year, with many veterans and their families hit especially hard by the pandemic.

“Engaging with sporting activities this year has been harder than ever before, but we know how important it is to maintain good physical and mental health. That’s why we’ve developed this initiative for Veterans’ Health Week. Together, we’re encouraging all veterans and their families to be active and connect despite many of the challenges that we face.

“The start of Veterans’ Health Week 2020 will also mark the two year anniversary of the Invictus Games Sydney 2018. It’s an opportunity to reflect on that incredible event, those moving stories and the power of sport in supporting the wellbeing of veterans and their families.”

Glen Turner, Health and Wellbeing Lead, parkrun Australia 

“parkrun is one of the largest community-led movements in Australia with more than 400 events around the country. It’s exciting to be working with Veteran Sport Australia and Open Arms to welcome many more veterans and their families into parkrun.

“It’s well known that outdoor physical activity and social interaction are important factors that underpin our wellbeing. parkrun creates a positive, inclusive and supportive environment where people can achieve that feel good factor.

“During this challenging time, (not)parkrun is proving to be an effective virtual way for our community to stay active, connect and welcome new participants.”

Stephanie Hodson, National Manager, Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling

“Social connection continues to be a real challenge this year, as has been managing our mental and physical health during these times. The ability to get our community active during Veterans’ Health Week and set them up to continue with parkrun and connect with Veteran Sport Australia into the future is fantastic.

“This initiative is for all veterans – serving, former serving and reservists. Importantly, it’s also for their family members and their friends. I’d encourage everyone to sign up to parkrun, join the ‘Team Veteran’ running club and have a go.”


For more information please contact: 

Sam McIntosh

About the organisations involved

Veteran Sport Australia (VSA) was founded to carry on the legacy of the Invictus Games Sydney 2018. The program is owned and operated by Australian International Military Games, the not-for-profit charitable organisation that was responsible for organising Invictus Games Sydney 2018. VSA exists to support veterans and their families to improve their health and wellbeing through sport and recreation.  

parkrun Australia runs free mass participation events that normally see around 50,000 walkers and runners completing 5km courses every Saturday around Australia, supported by thousands of smiling volunteers. There are over 400 events around Australia. (not)parkrun is a ‘virtual’ parkrun which people of all ages and abilities can do any time, any place, at any pace.

Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling is Australia’s leading national provider of mental health assessment and counselling services for Australian veterans and their families. Open Arms provides free and confidential counselling to anyone who has served at least one day in the ADF, and their families.

For a full list of Veteran Health Week activities supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs visit: https://www.dva.gov.au/health-and-treatment/work-and-social-life-programs/veterans-health-week

For more information on how you can become involved in the (not)parkrun see our facebook event for more details.

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