Couch to 5K
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Is a poster really enough? can we realistically just design a poster and then pat ourselves on the back for changing the world?

First of all, apologies. This is a biggie. If you have a spare ten minutes, read on and tell me what you think at the end.

With all this talk recently about designing a c25k poster, it’s got me thinking about raising awareness of this programme, and how it could be best targeted. I do applaud the push to get C25K more widely advertised, but I think that we should manage our expectations as to what such a poster campaign could realistically achieve. If we are going to do this, just creating a poster to put up in doctor’s surgeries is like putting a sticky plaster on a broken leg.

People who want to lose weight and get fitter will do so. They will find ways of doing it, whether it be C25K, weight loss groups or just getting out for a brisk walk every day. I don't think the train of thought about improving your lifestyle starts with seeing a poster. If you are healthy minded, you will see a C25K poster and it may inspire you to make the leap from being an active walker or swimmer. But arguably, this is preaching to the converted. I honestly don't believe that seeing a C25K poster will make you drop your fish supper and suddenly change your ways. I know from my days of having less desirable lifestyle habits that if I ever saw a poster advocating some healthy eating or living programme, I scoffed at it. My doctor told me time and time again that I needed to lose weight and stop smoking, but I never listened, even though I knew it was causing problems to my health. And I know that some of my more slovenly friends actively resist the efforts of the 'do-gooders' who absolutely must convince them that their way of life is so much healthier and therefore better. One must tread carefully when trying to convince someone to change their ways for the sake of their health. It can very easily lead to a 'cut your nose off to spite your face' situation.

I don’t think that aiming the focus of an awareness campaign at the doctor’s surgery is a productive use of time or resources. This is possibly a little too late, flying in the face of the ‘prevention is better than cure’ message which is core to the healthy living philosophy. Those who have health problems grave enough to be receiving advice from their doctor may well not be in a great position to start a running programme. My own doctor’s advice when it came to light that I had high blood pressure was that I had to lose about 3 stone before I could even consider taking up any active, weight bearing exercise, as the strain of hauling round so much extra weight during cardio exercise could have a detrimental effect on my joints, as well as my heart.

So back to the ‘prevention is better than cure’ message. Surely the place we want to be pushing the message is in schools, where kid’s activity habits are still being formed? My experience of P.E. in school was that it was aimed at the kids who were naturally fit, and those of us who weren’t so able, struggled and were ridiculed. It put me off physical activity for many years. There was no acknowledgement that many kids are actually unable to run more than 100m. There was no plan to gently bring them up to the level of activity they should reasonably be able to achieve, at a pace they were comfortable with (see where I’m going here?). I believe that an integration of some kind of c25k plan into the P.E. curriculum for those who need it would be a good plan to tackle the long term outlook. Give those kids the skills they need to be able to be active, without making them feel inadequate, just because they aren’t as naturally fit as their peers.

So that’s long term, what about short term? There are still many people who need to be reached who have already formed bad activity habits. As I said before, there is no way that just looking at a poster is going to convince these people that they need to change their ways. I think the secret of marketing c25K to adults is in word of mouth. I don't think an A4 poster will inspire a couch potato in anywhere near the same way as watching a friend or colleague becoming fitter, healthier, and achieving a healthy figure. Especially if that is someone who was previously as much of a couch potato as you!! That’s how I got involved.

So what can we do? It’s always going to be easier to teach our own kids good habits. Spend time with them being active. Make sure they can round around when they are playing and not get out of breath. Instill healthy levels of activity in them from a young age. As far as getting the message into schools, write your MP or education minister. Ask them to clarify what is being done in schools to ensure that children with lesser fitness ability are not being left behind. Suggest this programme as a tool to improve their fitness. Don’t forget, these people work for us, and if there is something that we feel needs to be listened to, they are duty bound to listen. It may take a bit of banging on the door, but if that’s what is needed then so be it. And don’t forget to keep telling your friends and colleagues about how great the programme is.

That’s my thoughts. I don’t want to pour cold water on any efforts to raise the profile of this wonderful plan. The main message I want people (if you are still reading this) to go away with is that posters in isolation will do very little. Even doctors recommending it to obese patients is too little, too late. If we’re going to do this, let’s do it properly!

13 Replies

This is a hard one, Narmour.

I think you're right about how schools traditionally deal with sports. I hated PE. Hockey, netball, tennis - didn't enjoy them one bit. Couldn't sprint, high jump or long jump to save my life. I could throw the discus and javelin if I put my mind to it though, and when we did 1500m I was fine. I've always been built for comfort and not for speed! But because I was female I wasn't allowed to do cross country (although the boys were), nor were us girls allowed to play rugby. I would have loved both of those!! PE teachers will always focus on those few who are athletically inclined, who are capable of competing on behalf of the school and county etc, with the average kids getting little or no encouragement.

I agree that we should be teaching our own youngsters good habits in terms of being active but (and I sound ancient here) you don't see children playing out like they did back in the 60's and 70's when I was growing up. The majority of them, from toddlers upwards, are glued to the tv, games console or computer in their bedrooms. Yes, the great outdoors can be dangerous and that's always been the case - but many parents use technology as cheap babysitters and a way of knowing exactly where their kids are without having to physically interact with them. How do we get this changed? Search me....

The NHS has it's Change4Life campaign - complete with tv adverts - so why doesn't it proactively include C25K in this? Some local authorities have started offering free or subsidised swimming and exercise sessions for families with children as part of the scheme so I'm appalled at the apparent lack of joined up thinking there. I think that posters in the GP's may encourage some people, as could information in some of the counselling services (running is great for lifting mood and positive thinking). And perhaps getting the local park run groups to advertise it on their websites etc would help so that people are aware of other runners locally and don't feel as nervous about getting involved.


Hi! I must say I am certainly confused about why this c25k is not known about or pushed as a part of the Change4Life campaign. I only found out about it from someone mentioning it on the Weight Watchers online message boards; I had a browse and found it, borrowed my daughters Ipod (thankfully she is happy to use her phone to listen to her music!) & off I went. But it was a bit of a solitary journey for me for the first couple of months as I didn't begin posting on here until I got to week 9...

I tell everyone I can about it and have managed to get about 5 different people started at work; and now have both daughters and son-in-law as graduates and Parkrunners, too.

I think there should be posters everywhere; schools, libraries, Dr's - even if it only get a few people hooked they then spread the word to family, friends and associates, too. I wear my graduate T shirt out running but don't think it is clear as an advertising tool as I jiggle along! ;-)

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I only found out about C25K by chance, not entirely sure how now! I love it, and have been bleating on about it to everyone that will listen ever since. I know I have encouraged at least 2 or 3 people to have a go, and as I blog too there may be others that have given it a go.

I'm surprised that it's not pushed more with the change4 life programme, but then I'm still waiting for my fit plan to come through and I submitted it weeks ago....

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Interesting thoughts and I understand where you're coming from. Here are my thoughts: I am someone who has not been active for a long time. Luckily I am not overweight or experiencing health problems from the lack of activity, but I knew I wasn't healthy and fit, and could get tired out quite easily. I work at a computer so I know sitting down all day isn't good for me.

Time and time again I tried to start a new fitness program, which I always stuck at for a few weeks before stopping. Finding couch 2 5K has changed it all. The way it's set up with the smaller goals each week gave me something to stick at it for. I'm so glad I found it but I think it would be better if it was better advertised, and posters might just get it into the minds of people like me who need to find the right program that can progress at the right speed.

Compared to other fitness ideas it sounds doable (starting with the "couch") yet also an amazing achievement if you can reach the end (5K). I think that might get the attention of people like me who have never been able to stick at exercise even though they know they need to get healthy.

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I do agree about schools, I have a high school student son and that seems to be the time when many kids switch off from sport - there's a variety of reasons behind it. His school tries to tread a fine line between ploughing attention into the kids who are going to win trophies and encouraging those who never will, but it's a difficult one. I agree it's important.

As goes the suggestion for GP surgeries, I still think it's a good one - I know when I'm stuck in the waiting room my eyes wander over the posters. It's a valid point that those who want to will seek it out but sometimes people 'sort of' want to but don't think they can - I'm a classic example, wanted to run for years but really thought I wasn't capable. Every time I tried I made the mistake of running too far, too fast, too soon - I honestly I had no idea there was another way, it was a revelation, crazy as it sounds. So for someone like me, wanting to but doubting they can, a poster in a GP surgery might be helpful. Yes, I researched it myself online but not everyone realises this is out there - if that makes sense. :-)

I did add to that thread a suggestion of other places to display posters, community centres, council gyms, libraries, etc. It won't change the world, but small positive actions are good IMO. I'm certainly willing to distribute.


Oh and I agree about word of mouth, definitely, I often point people here.


I hope I do not come across as a Negative Nellie here, but I wish to add a few points.

Firstly I thank Narmour for explaining his attitude to any health messages at the time when he was living a less-healthy lifestyle. I have always been fit, active and healthy and don't know what it is like to view health promotion from a "it's nothing to do me" viewpoint.

Secondly, I wish to defend current approaches to physical education in schools. I worked in pre-school education for a number of years, and recently completed primary school teacher training. At primary level, PE is far different from many of our experiences at school (although *I* enjoyed PE at primary school). It is not all about who can run fast, jump high or kick a ball accurately. Yes, skills for specific games are taught as per the curriculum, but there is an emphasis on getting every one moving. For example, during one school placement I spent several lessons leading aerobics-style dance sessions with 8-9 year olds where every child could do the actions. I didn't get to teach any athletics lessons, but can see the usefulness of C25K as a means of getting all children to run for 30 minutes at whatever pace they can. Maybe the programme could be promoted in teaching training colleges.

My thoughts about what we can do to help promote C25K are a bit rambling, so please bear with me.

Firstly I, too, am surprised the C25K programme is not known about by many community workers or community health professionals. Although I acknowledge when Narmour says about many people will not listen, or follow up, such information even if give it by health workers.

When MrsMozzer mentioned the nhs Change4Life campaign, I admit I didn't know what she meant. I Googled it and remembered I had seen some info (newspaper ads or telly ads?), but I see it is only applicable for England and Wales. However I recognise that maybe C25K could be one aspect of fitness and could be mentioned in the campaign.

This brings me to another point. Walking. In Scotland we have a campaign-Paths for All-to get more people walking as an important step to improving health. Much as I LOVE running and accept that it has worked to get very many of our members here from zero exercise (literally the couch) to being able to run for 30 minutes, I wonder if, as a first step at least (pun intended), society in general would be better off concentrating on getting more people doing at least 30 minutes of walking (or any exercise) each and every day. This is what the Scottish Government has to say about walking on the Paths for All site:

"Walking is:

- Free

- Accessible to all

- Within the physical capabilities of most people

- Combines physical activity with an opportunity for social contact and support

- Can be enjoyed safely with a low risk of injury

- Can encourage people to consider other aspects of their lifestyle eg healthy eating, stopping smoking and reducing stress"

"Regular activity is man's best medicine. Walking is a great treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and many other conditions"

Dr Andrew Murray, GP and the Scottish Government's Physical Activity Champion, May 2012

As I say, I LOVE running, and love the extra fitness I have gained over and above what I had previously for the past 40 years of walking, cycling, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, skiing, etc, etc, but it's not for everyone. I've read several people on the forums here say they hate running, so I say let's promote the programme by all means, but don't expect everyone to take to it.

Regards promotion, as others have said, I think word of mouth is best and that includes social media.

I leave you with Dr Mike Evans message 23 1/2 hours:


I agree with this, and particularly like the video lecture. Ace. It IS a difficult balance to strike. Narmour's comments about preaching to the converted are perfectly valid of course but I think the benefits of a cheap intervention like posters outweigh the disbenefits of not using them. I'd prefer to see the NHS using posters as part of a wider programme to publish and support C25K and can't understand why they aren't doing so. Perhaps we need to write to the Minister? All of us. Apparently there are now 7000 people on this forum. 7000 letters on a single topic, and one within their remit, might make them take notice. A sympathetic MP raising it in the House would also raise the profile. Do we have any MPs doing C25K? Hmm. Think I might just write to the Secretary of State for Health and the Permanent Secretary. Google Dept of Health for names/contacts.


Fascinating collection of viewpoints. I too have been evangelising the programme to friends and colleagues. Have mentioned it on Facebook too. Have discovered other friends who've done it, and I never knew, just wondered why they suddenly looked trim and fit. It was a colleague who got me into it - she'd done it a couple of years ago, and I was mega-impressed when I saw her finishing a "Race for Life" and she told me she'd run all the way! I couldn't imagine what running for 5 k without stopping might feel like. Now I can run for 7k. I think doctor's surgery idea for posters is fine - there are lots of people who are in the surgery for all sorts of reasons, not even because they are ill, who might not have heard of the programme. You can be there for regular prescriptions, or bringing a baby, or elderly relative, or in for a vaccination - doesn't mean you're not a willing recipient of messages to do with health and exercise promotion.


To add to swanscot's observation about primary PE, my experience of sons at secondary who are not 'sporty' is that the way PE is approached now is more inclusive and they enjoy it. They do fitness tests so they can see their progress. One of my children who struggled with team sports was funded to use the gym instead. Admittedly they attend a particularly nurturing and laid back about things that don't matter school - not much fuss and bother about kit for example.

I think letting doctors and practice nurses know more about it and posters in the surgery is a great idea. I'd focus on the '60 seconds' as that was what convinced me to give it a go, not the idea that I could end up running for 30 minutes or 5K. But I'd really like to see a lot more done to make it easier for people to build activity into their daily lives - cycle routes, walking routes (which would be good for runners who don't share my fondness for bog), places to shower and change on arrival at school or work, easier to take cycles on buses and trains.


I have to agree schools are much better these days my husbands teaches pe and they do so many different sports now to involve all kids and tomake it more engaging for them rather than running round a field ! I heard about couch from a lady at a toddlers gym class while we were talking about weight and exercise and if she hadnt I would of never googled it ! So word of mouth is a great way x


Narmour is correct in saying that a poster will not change minds nor lifestyles, but it is an effective means of communication of information. I stumbled across NHS C25k after googling for information on running for beginners and then filtering out all the other stuff, including the other C25k schemes. Had a C25k poster been on view in my doctor's and dentist's waiting rooms, as well as schools, libraries, community and sports centres, supermarkets etc. then I might well have been aware of the existence of such a training plan and would then have known where to look when I decided to start running. I (still) trust the NHS brand and think that most people feel the same way and was therefore much happier to follow a scheme promoted by them than some commercial programme.

A poster would have worked for me, although I am acutely aware, from my experience with my local Arts Centre, that posters are invisible to many and word of mouth is by far the most effective method of enthusing and persuading individuals, along with social media. I have also suggested regional C25k meetings. These could be a social meeting for us, involving a group run, a C25k conga and an invitation to local press and media to cover the event. If this sort of thing happened nationwide, along with widespread poster distribution then the existence of C25k would inevitably become more widely known.

The integration of something akin to C25k into schools would be superb and if the Park Run model was used as well, then children could run against themselves and see their own improvement in exactly the same way as we have all experienced. I believe that is probably beyond us, as a community, to change, but a poster and press coverage, yes we can do that. Despite the shortcomings of the site format, this forum is overflowing with second hand endorphins and huge enthusiasm, so let's get moving.

I have asked HU admin about copyright issues, but have yet to get a reply. I will try again. Best foot forward!


I tend to agree with much of what is said by Narmour. I wish I didn't, but I do.

Trying to get overweight/unfit people to do exercise is never going to be easy, and if they are pushed too much, they will simply dig their heels in and refuse.

What we need to do is concentract our efforts of putting a fence at the top of the cliif, and not having an ambulance at the bottom. IE, we need intervention rather than cure. and this is where the problem lies...

Many children will be driven to school, picked up and driven home, even the ones who live quite near-by. They will then watch TV, eat and 'skype'/text and e mail friends, and not go out. This is where the foundation of the problems lie.

If we can somehow persuade parents, schools (already overstretched), health professionals and sports clubs to come together in a cohesive way, we may help prevent the spread of this pandemic. Siimply targeting already overweight or unfit people is never going to work ~ we all know how difficult it is to burn off 100 calories in comparison with eating it!

I don't think there is one simple answer, in fact I know there isn't. However, with some intergration and joined-up-thinking by the right people, I'm sure we can head-off the seemimngly ongoing obesity crisis before we reach the critical point.

If this can happen, then I feel sure that many parents who see their children keeping fit may, just may be inspired to take up some activity themselves. I believe that this is more likely to encourage adults than simply sticking yet another poster up, or by being told by the doctor something they alreay know and which will be forgotten the moment they walk out the surgery door.

In conclusion, I believe that we need to target children and stop them getting into the no-exercise routine, and make sport fun and enjoyable, and not something to be endured at school. Here school can help by encouraging ALL children to have a go, and by not simply concentrating on the good ones. An example here is our son ~ at Primary school he was never encouraged to do much sport, and the faciliteis were woeful at best. He did, however walk with us and Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. He was a little overweight, but not much. As soo as he reached secondary school, he started orienteering and running. He is now a national level rower, a very good runner, swims like a fish and if as fit as the proverbial flea. This has happened by parental support (not pushing), and by the school supporting all the boys, and not just the ones that came in as good sportsmen.

Together, we can do it ~ individually, we fill [regrettably] fail.


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