couch to 5k plan for seniors (1)

Couch to 5k plan for seniors: Tips to get you started

6 min read |
Gemma Clay Sweet Pea Care Webinars

Author 24.10.2022

Gemma Clay

Want to get back into running, why not try a couch to 5k plan for seniors?

Many people feel that as they age, they should do less exercise. However, the benefits of movement are tremendous at all ages.

A Couch to 5K program is a gentle introduction to running, featuring a walk/run/walk training program.

This is perfect for people coming back to running after a long break, or even for those who have never run.

Read on for our Couch to 5K plan for seniors, tips to get you started.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover in this article:

  • Couch to 5k is a gentle training plan designed for people to learn to run 5k in 9 weeks.
  • The walk/run/walk format means you can gradually work your way up to running continuously for 30 minutes without pushing yourself too hard, too soon.
  • Anyone at any age or level of fitness can do the couch to 5k plan. You might like to check with your doctor before starting if you have any medical issues or concerns.

Why couch to 5K? 

The ‘Couch to 5K’ plan is perfect for beginners because it was designed specifically for those new to running or restarting after a break.

It was the brainchild of Josh Clark, a keen runner who wanted to help his mum, in her 50s, ‌to learn to run just as he had. 

Since then, couch to 5K plans have really taken off in popularity.

The NHS even advises people with sedentary lifestyles to take the program and has developed it into an app! (More on this later on.)

What improvements can I expect to see from running 5k? 

Let’s have a closer look at some benefits of regular running. 

Physical benefits

As we age our muscles will slowly deteriorate. There are many reasons for this, but simply put, our hormones change and this leads to muscle loss. 

Regular exercise, like running, can counteract those hormonal changes and help us to keep our muscles strong and healthy.  

Keeping in balance

Our balance may also grow less reliable thanks to the firming up of the gel in our inner ear that regulates our balance. 

Strong and fit muscles will counteract balance trouble to a great extent. We may well wobble a bit as we age, but the fitter and stronger we are, the less likely we are to fall.

If we do take a tumble, we will probably have fewer injuries if our muscles are strong. We also are likely to recover better after a fall.

running for older men (1)

Better for general health

We also know that as we age, we are more susceptible to some conditions. Cancer, diabetes and heart disease, to name a few. 

Regular running and other exercise do a lot to help us avoid these health challenges.

Among many other reasons, running helps to improve blood flow all around our body. Blood takes fresh oxygen and nutrients to all of our organs and cells.

Cardiovascular fitness is really adding strength to your heart, lungs and blood carrying system. Increased cardiovascular fitness will improve almost every part of your body! 

Mental health benefits of running

Humans are designed to move, through walking, running, stretching, or whatever movement takes our fancy. So when we move less and sit more, this can affect our mental health and our moods. 

Throughout our working lives (especially if you have an office job) and then as we get older, we’re likely to spend more time sitting down than moving. 

On top of that, arthritis, aches and pains and having less to do can make it seem like movement is difficult to fit into our day. 

But sadly the less we move, the worse our mental health may get. 

why you should run over 60s

Side effects of sitting down

Sitting down isn’t good for us for a variety of reasons. Our organs and cells don’t get such good quality nourishment if blood flow is sluggish from a sedentary lifestyle. 

Our brains also benefit from plenty of good oxygenated blood flow as well. 

Happy chemicals

Movement affects hormone production too. We get more ‘happy chemicals’ in our bodies from exercise and movement than almost anything else. 

These chemicals usually last longer than the ones we get from food or even physical contact, keeping our mood sunnier for longer. 

There is also a virtuous circle effect from doing exercise. The more regular exercise we do, the better our mood, and the better our bodies feel. 

In turn, we want to do more exercise to get more of these good feelings. Then we feel even better, and get even more health benefits. 

Win win! 

Am I too old to run 5k?

Absolutely not! Whatever age you are is the perfect age to start running!

The thing to be aware of – more than your age – is your current physical condition. I

f you have arthritis, for example, you might feel stiff in the morning. 

Planning your walk / runs for the afternoon might allow your body to warm up and feel looser.

Arthritis can be helped by gentle exercise, so the couch to 5k program could be helpful.

What should I consider before I start? 

It’s always useful to do a bit of preparation before your first run. Remember, if you have any concerns always speak to a doctor first.

Here’s a few things to think about before you start:

  • Your current fitness levels. Should you try walking round the block for a few weeks before you start the program? Or can you jump right in?
  • Your current health. If you have any health issues, you might like to modify this program with advice from a personal trainer or your GP.
  • Any mobility issues. Are there aids that could help you with the couch to 5k program?
  • Medications that may affect you while exercising. Be sure to check with your doctor. 
  • What time of day and week will you run? Put it in your calendar! If it’s in your calendar, it’s more likely to happen.
  • Plan how you will fit your runs in around other commitments. Your commitment to your health is also important.
  • For safety, tell a friend or loved one where you are going to be running and when.

Confused about how to fund care?

Free Care Funding Guide Download

Top tips to start your couch to 5k program for seniors

Here’s some of our top tips to get you started on your first run:

Put your best foot forward

Don’t overthink it! 

Make sure you have considered all you need to, then go for it. It’s too easy to talk ourselves out of something if we think about it for too long.

Enrol a friend to join you! 

Doing couch to 5k with a friend will help in lots of ways. They’ll be an accountability buddy to keep you on the program when you might feel discouraged by it.

You will also have the satisfaction of knowing you are helping someone else get fitter and healthier. 

can seniors do chair yoga (1)

Stretching and warm ups

To avoid injury on your couch to 5k plan for seniors spend some time warming up before each run. For inspiration try these morning stretches.

You may also like to give chair yoga a try to improve flexibility and general mobility.

Invest in the right equipment

Get some decent running shoes. 

You don’t need top of the range trainers, some basic ones with decent foot support will probably be fine. Make sure they are comfortable and don’t rub! 

A running shoe shop will give you all the advice you need for your feet and your running aims.

Treat your feet to running socks

They are slightly compressive, so help to stop any rubbing. They also wick away sweat to keep your feet dry. 

These are not essential by any means, but can help keep you comfortable.

An armband for your mobile phone  

Of course you don’t need to use the NHS couch to 5k app on a mobile device in order to learn to run a 5k, but it is very helpful! 

Carrying your phone in your hand, however, is a distraction you really don’t need while learning a new habit.

An armband or a bumbag is very helpful to hold your phone while the app tells you what to do. It will also hold your keys for you. 

Stay hydrated with a reusable water bottle.

This is not essential, but as a beginner runner, thirst can be tricky to manage while you get used to moving more. 

If you stay very close to your home or car, you can leave your bottle there. 

However, if you are confident in walking/running the distance and time the app suggests, take water with you. As you get more used to walk/running, you probably won’t need it for a 5k distance.

Stay motivated

Download a playlist or a podcast. 

When you are starting a new habit like couch to 5k, it’s helpful to pair it with another habit. Listening to a favourite podcast or radio show while you run might help anchor the running habit better. 

A fun playlist of upbeat music can also be helpful to motivate you to get moving and raise that heartbeat! Try out both ideas and see which works for you.

You aren’t competing against anyone but yourself. 

As a new runner, it can be tempting to judge oneself against others. It is important to remember that we all start where we start and that we are all running our own race. 

Use other people’s performance as inspiration, not a rod to beat yourself up with.

Ready to get started on couch to 5k plan for seniors?

If you’re all prepped and ready to run then download the Couch to 5K app here and get started. 

Remember to take it steady and have fun!

If you’re interested in improving mobility and other types of strength based workouts then why not read our guide on getting in shape after 50 three exercises that reverse aging.

Managing arthritis in couch to 5k plan for seniors

As well as regular gentle exercise, diet and nutrition plays an important role in helping to manage arthritis. If you’re looking for more advice on what to eat and what to avoid then read our guide on rheumatoid arthritis diet.


Considering care for a loved one?

Organising care for a loved one can be a stressful and emotional time. That’s why at Sweet Pea we do all the hard work for you.

All you need to do is to enter your loved ones care needs into our care matching service and we’ll provide you with a shortlist of available carers in your area.

Gemma Clay Sweet Pea Care Webinars

Author 24.10.2022

Gemma Clay

Gemma is the Founder and CEO of Sweet Pea Care and has been advising families and care companies for the last decade through Arc Seven Communications.