Could Couch to 5K work for you?

We take a look at this popular running programme and app to see how it works, who it can benefit and whether it encourages weight loss.

What is Couch to 5k?

Couch to 5K is an NHS-backed running programme that aims to take you from absolute beginner to running five kilometres in just nine weeks.

Each week involves three runs, which build in distance and intensity as the weeks go on. The plan also encourages rest days between runs.

How does the Couch to 5k programme work?

The Couch to 5K plan works by gradually building your fitness and your running ability. It starts slowly and encourages regular sessions to build up your stamina over time.


Its original creator was new to running and the plan is structured with novices in mind. It is a very gradual progression to 5K.

You start with a mix of running and walking. In week one you’ll only run for a minute at a time. If you stick to the plan, it should be very manageable.

You’ll start with five-minute walks and one-minute runs, moving gradually running five minutes straight, eventually reaching a point where you can run for 30 minutes.

The plan builds gradually and is structured in a straightforward, achievable way. It is designed to be highly accessible and to avoid participants getting put off because they try to take on too much too soon.1

If you follow the plan properly, at the end of nine weeks you should be able to run five kilometres without stopping.

What are the benefits of Couch to 5K?

A major benefit of Couch to 5K programme is its accessibility. So long as you have a decent pair of trainers, you don’t have to spend money on expensive equipment in order to start running. You can use a free app and you don’t have to pay to join a gym.


Another pro point is that the course is designed for beginners, so it’s easy to understand and – for most people – easy to put into practice.

The programme is designed to improve fitness by increasing your physical activity. If you follow the plan and start running regularly you should certainly see an improvement in your physical health.

Running (or jogging) regularly can improve your heart and lung health as well as building the strength and stability of your joints. It can also reduce your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.2

There is some evidence that running can help increase bone density.3

Exercise is also good for your mental health. It releases endorphins, which can improve your mood. Many people find that running can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.4

Completing a course such as Couch to 5K can also boost your self-esteem, giving you a sense of achievement.1

What are the downsides of the programme?

Couch to 5K is not the best option for everyone. Although it is for beginners, some people may find it too difficult. Others may find it too easy. Both groups may struggle to stick to it.

Before starting any exercise programme, you should always go to your GP for advice. They will be able to advise on its suitability for your individual needs.


Another criticism of the plan is that it doesn’t involve any strength training; it’s just a cardio workout. However, the NHS has developed the Strength and Flex programme, which can be completed alongside Couch to 5K.

Ultimately it won’t work for everyone, but it is a tried and tested plan that has helped many people build up their stamina and fitness. Many people have found they continue running well after they finish the nine-week course.5

What is the best app for Couch to 5k?

There are various apps available that are designed to help you through the programme. One You Couch to 5K is the free app (from Public Health England) that accompanies the NHS programme.

You’ll need headphones to use this app, which will guide you through each run as you do it, telling you when to speed up or slow down and when it’s time to stop.

This Couch to 5K app will keep track of your progress and also gives you the option to go at your own pace, for example if you want to rerun certain sessions or skip others.

You’ll also have access to Couch to 5K podcasts, which offer tips and advice on completing the programme as well as sharing stories from people who’ve benefited from it.

Will training for a 5k help me to lose weight?

It should be noted that Couch to 5K running programme is not designed as a weight-loss plan.


Running can absolutely help you on your weight loss journey. Many people have found it’s a great help.6  But it is not guaranteed. Most people will need to combine the programme with a healthy diet in order to lose weight.

This is because you need a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. Although you’ll burn more calories while running than you would on the couch, it’s still possible to consume more calories than you burn – even if you’re running three times a week.

If you would like to lose weight as well as improving your fitness, speak to your GP or book a dietary consultation.

Couch to 5k: Frequently asked questions

We answer some of the most common questions about the running programme.

Does Couch to 5K tell you when to turn around?


You’ll be notified when you’re halfway through so that you can turn around if you wish.

Can you listen to music with Couch to 5K?


If you use the app it will synch with your music and the volume will automatically get lower each time the app gives you instructions.

How far should I run as a beginner?

The beauty of Couch to 5K is that it eases you into running, so if you use the programme it will tell you the right time and distance to run for as a beginner.

Can you do Couch to 5K on a treadmill?

You can, yes, but you should be sure to get advice from a professional about how to use the treadmill and what settings are best for you.

Can I do Couch to 5K every day?


The programme factors in rest days, you should aim for at least one between runs. If you go too hard you run the risk of hurting yourself.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337

or make an online enquiry.



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