Ask the expert


Is there an age limit for the couch to 5k challenge?

I am 70 years old and quite fit – certainly not at ‘couch’ level, but I have never done any distance running. My question is, is there an age limit for doing a 5k run?

2 July 2019

Thank you for contacting Ask the Expert. I think it's terrific that you’re keen to look after yourself and keep yourself fit, both physically and mentally.

In relation to you doing a 5K run at the tender age of 70 years young, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do it – there’s no age limit when it comes to keeping fit, taking part in runs or exercising. However it is advisable to be sensible and listen to your body and bear in mind any health conditions that you might have.

If you’re considering participating in an organised 5K, 10K, or Park run, for example, there are usually different categories to enable you to participate with like-minded individuals, of a similar age or fitness levels and at a pace that is manageable for you.

My recommendations to you in relation to starting running are:

  • Consider discussing exercise with your GP/Practice nurse if you have on-going health concerns/heart or respiratory issues.

  • Plan your exercise in advance: work out your route and roughly how long you think it will take, and make sure you have the right kit, including comfortable casual or running wear and, most importantly, the right footwear. If you’re serious about running, it’s well worth visiting a sports or specialist running shop where they’re able to measure your gait and recommend the right shoes for you – to help you get the most from your exercise and minimise the impact of your increased activity on your lower limbs!

  • Preparing yourself mentally is also really important. Obviously you need a certain level of physical fitness to take on a 5k run, but often crossing the line has as much to do with your state of mind, so don’t forget to work on your mental fitness too. Check out our Headstrong campaign for more on the benefits of taking a ‘one body’ approach to mental and physical fitness, including a set of video workouts for you to try!

  • Begin by exercising regularly and gradually introducing running into your fitness regime

  • Try running slowly (or jogging/walking briskly) for a few minutes, then walking at normal pace for a few minutes, then slow running again, and repeat for a period of time that is comfortable for you.

  • Gradually increase the distance and pace of running that you're doing and reduce the period of walking between the running stints over a period of a few sessions a week.

  • Ensure you have a good running posture as this helps reduce injury and muscle strain: Keep your head held up high, back straight, shoulders back and your arms swinging to balance you.

  • Ensure that you keep hydrated throughout exercising and afterwards.

  • Always warm up pre-exercise and warm down afterwards to reduce risk of cramps etc.

  • Bathe after exercise to help reduce aches and pains.

  • Try to run in green spaces where possible for even greater wellbeing benefits (Find out more in our article on nature prescribing)

  • Above all, enjoy your exercise regime!

You’ll find lots more information and inspiration to help kick start your new regime and keep you motivated along the way in our Exercise and fitness hub.

You may also wish to look at the Free fitness ideas on the NHS website, which include tips, videos and podcasts, as well as recommended phone apps to help you get started on exercising more. There's even a section specifically on the couch to 5K challenge.

I hope this is of some help and wish you all the best!


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