More than six million runs were completed using the Couch to 5k app across the UK in 2022, helping people to get fit for free.
The app – a free running plan for beginners provided by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) in partnership with the BBC – helped people to complete 6.46 million runs between 1 January and 29 December 2022.
More people were active over Christmas in 2022 than in 2021 with 8,600 people using the app to run on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in 2022, up from 8,000 (7.5%) in 2021.
As we move into the new year, people are being encouraged to download the app and join the hundreds of thousands of people who got last year off to a healthy start. 937,724 runs were completed in January 2022, with 12,500 people using the app to run on New Year’s Day itself.
Regular running has been shown to reduce the risk of long-term illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke, as well as helping to maintain a healthier weight and improve your mood.
A recent YouGov poll found that 10 per cent of adults in Great Britain have either cancelled or are considering cancelling a gym or other sports or exercise membership due to the rising cost of living, with the Couch to 5k app a great alternative for people struggling to pay for gym or sports memberships.
UK Public Health Minister Neil O’Brien said:
“The start of a new year is a great time to make healthy lifestyle changes and the free NHS Couch to 5K app is a brilliant way to get fit and healthy for free, as people look to exercise for less due to the rising cost of living.
“Keeping fit can have a positive impact on our health, preventing risks of developing serious illness such as heart disease and diabetes – helping to reduce pressure on the NHS.
“I hope people will be inspired by the progress of hundreds of thousands of others and will give the app a try - it costs nothing and could be the best resolution you make this year.”
860,000 people used the app to do at least one run between 1 January and 29 December 2022. Designed for people who have done little or no running, the app provides guided commentary from a celebrity coach of their choosing and helps users to easily track their progress by doing three runs per week.
Runners are spurred on by one of many celebrity coaches including Reece Parkinson, Yasmin Evans, Jo Whiley, Denise Lewis, Sanjeev Kohli and Sarah Millican, as well as Mum Laura – the original programme trainer – who returned to the app by popular demand.
As each running challenge is completed, users receive celebration videos and summaries of their progress. ‘Discover’ and ‘Support’ sections help people to overcome setbacks with helpful articles and videos. Buddy Runs are also available where users can invite others on the app to run together – either in person or virtually.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer and joint lead for OHID Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy said:
“It’s brilliant to see so many people have kept active through using the NHS Couch to 5K app in 2022 and I hope the trend continues into 2023.
“With over 6 million runs completed this year, every run represents someone taking a small step towards improving their health, getting a bit of me-time and progressing to that 5-kilometre goal. If you do one thing this New Year, get moving and download the Couch to 5K app."
OHID (formerly Public Health England) teamed up with BBC to create the Couch to 5K mobile app in 2016, and since then they have been working together to help more people access the app.
Director of Sport at the BBC Barbara Slater said:
“Since our partnership began, the Couch to 5k app has helped millions of people across the UK to get fitter and more active. We’re proud it’s helping people to take positive steps to improve their health.”
The app has been downloaded 6.5 million times since it launched in May 2016, with 2.36 million downloads during the height of the pandemic (March 2020 to July 2021) by people seeking to get more active during lockdown.