NHS Choices - Live Well
Andrew Watson took up running after a routine medical check-up revealed he had high blood pressure.
Overweight and with a family history of hypertension, the 49-year-old knew he needed to be more active.
With a mainly deskbound job and a busy family life, the father-of-three from Devon was leading a largely sedentary lifestyle.
However, the unexpected blood pressure readings were a wake-up call for Andrew and prompted him to take up running.
Since graduating from Couch to 5K and progressing on to parkrun, free timed 5km runs, he has lost two stone and says running has given him a “new lease of life”.
With his father being a seasoned parkrunner and his three teenage sons getting a taste for the timed 5km runs, Andrew says running is turning into a family affair.Why did you start Couch to 5K?
I have a history of raised blood pressure, which is being managed by my GP surgery. I went for a routine check-up just before Easter  and my reading was up again. I was advised to lose a bit of weight, which was a wake-up call. I'd started cycling and watching my portion sizes, but felt I needed to do more.How active were you before starting Couch to 5K?
I wasn't a complete couch potato and I'd recently started cycling to work, but my job is mainly desk-based and I found it hard to incorporate exercise into my lifestyle. I knew I needed to increase my physical activity, but I never seemed to get round to it.How has Couch to 5K changed you?
I feel fitter now than I have done for years, and regular exercise is now part of my lifestyle. The exercise and better diet also help me manage my blood pressure. I've lost over two stone since I started Couch to 5K in April. I also feel better in myself, less stressed and in a better mood. I think it’s down to the sense of achievement I get from running.What do you like about the Couch to 5K plan?
I'm the sort of person who needs a bit of structure, so I found the podcasts and the commentary and encouragement really helpful. Knowing I had to fit three runs in each week really helped me get into a routine.How did you hear about parkrun?
I first heard about parkrun’s timed 5km runs from my dad, who is a keen runner and a proud wearer of his 50 parkruns t-shirt! A parkrun was recently set up in Parke Estate, near Bovey Tracey, about a mile or so from my home.Did you start parkrun after completing Couch to 5K?
I didn't feel confident tackling a 5km run from scratch, as I had tried running in the past and never enjoyed it. I tended to go too fast too soon, and ended up feeling defeated. Parkrun gave me a goal to aim for while doing Couch to 5K. Once I reached Week 7 of the programme, and was running continuously for 20 minutes, I felt ready to give parkrun a go.How often do you do parkrun?
I've now completed 15 parkruns since starting in June, and I try to go as much as possible. According to other runners, Parke is quite a hard course compared to other parkruns, with plenty of ups and downs.What do you like about parkrun?
Lots of things! Anyone can give it a go, no matter what level of fitness they are. It's free and convenient for me, being close to home, and as it starts at 9am you still have the rest of the day to do other things. I have a busy job and family life too, so fitting in exercise has been a challenge in the past.Have your running times improved?
Yes. With my first parkrun, I was hoping just to get round, but secretly hoping it would be in less than 40 minutes. I was thrilled to achieve 34:25 for my first attempt. The following week I shaved about two-and-a-half minutes off that, and my personal best (PB) now stands at 28:50.Do you do parkrun alone?
My son has run with me a couple of times, but he usually finds friends from school on the start line to run with. I tend to run on my own, but will see quite a few familiar faces, including work mates and neighbours, along the course. My other two sons are showing an interest in parkrun, so it's turning into a family affair.Have you made new friends doing parkrun?
Yes, parkrun is quite sociable and friendly. The course volunteers give you encouragement on the way round, and a few people head up to the cafe afterwards for a coffee and a chat. I've started volunteering on some days, which is another way of getting involved in the whole social aspect.How does parkrun keep you motivated?
Couch to 5K got me into the habit of running three times a week, so doing a parkrun on Saturdays and a couple of mid-week runs help to me maintain that routine. The fact that parkrun is a timed run is also great motivation. It drives you to improve your times. Since achieving my initial goal of getting a PB under 30 minutes, I am now considering joining a local running club, and might enter a 10k event in 2015.
A minor health problem can sometimes get worse quickly if you’re over 60. If you or someone you care for is feeling under the weather it’s best to get early advice from your pharmacist.Why early advice is the best advice
It's best to get advice on your illness as soon as you can, because, being older, if a winter ailment becomes serious you're more likely to need treatment in hospital.
It’s not always easy to ask for help. You may feel that you’re wasting your pharmacist’s time if you go to see them with a minor illness, like a cold or a sore throat. But it's minor health problems like these that your pharmacist is there to help with.
Getting help early means you're likely to recover more quickly and be able to get your life back to normal.How your pharmacist can help
Pharmacists are a highly trained and trusted source of health advice for minor health problems. Your local pharmacist can:
- give you expert advice to help with symptoms of coughs, wheeziness, colds or sore throats
- see you without an appointment, and often when your GP practice is closed
- advise you on whether you need to see your GP
- speak to you privately in a consultation area where other people can’t hear about your health problems
- help you manage a long-term condition (if you have one), such as diabetes or COPD