Too old to start running?: I've been reading... - Couch to 5K

Couch to 5K

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Too old to start running?


I've been reading these posts for quite a while and I've been intending to start running too but still haven't done it. I wonder if I'm too old at 56?

I hated running at school but have always loved walking and can walk a mile in 17 minutes (which is probably slow). However, I feel I need to do something radical as my stamina is poor and I'm about 1.5 stone overweight. I've also had a horrendous few years, caring for my mum through a traumatic series of events culminating in her death two years ago. Add to that starting a new business and relationship problems and I feel like literally running away from everything!!

I'm not on any medication, have normal blood pressure and no cardiac or any other health issues as far as I know. I have never smoked. But I do wonder if I might have a heart attack if I start running. Two young runners died recently in the Cardiff half marathon. Also I believe Jim Fixx, the running guru died of a heart attack.

Sorry for the long post and all views welcome!

26 Replies

No not too old and not too unfit probably - C25K is a really gradual approach and if it takes you a bit longer to do then that’s fine. If you’re worried talk to your Dr and get a health check but don’t forget you can get this on prescription! I did it on my own with the running app and am a proud 🐌! I finish my Parkrun last but I can do it and I’m 5 mins faster than I was when I first did it. Age? I’m 57 and a good 4 stone overweight I’m also asthmatic and arthritic with anxiety and a chronic back problem - my resting heart rate is now 60 and my mental health is much improved. I wear a support for my knee and I absolutely love running outside! My asthma improves (after a bit of gasping and wheezing) Go for it!!!!


As long as qualified medical advice doesn’t say “Don’t “ you certainly are not too old :)

Jim Fixx had a bum heart long before his running took off, would most likely have died far earlier without having such exercise. The two others you mentioned, I have no idea about - but when you look at how many didn’t die... well, the odds are in our favor :)

I was a totally unhealthy 56 year old when I started - overweight, Asthmatic, deformed foot bones since birth, not long off a 40 year pack plus a day cigarette addiction and high cholesterol etc etc. Walking a mile around the park took me over twenty minutes for starters - and I would be breathing very heavily the whole way.

Now I knock out 37 minute 5ks without feeling it’s all that much :)

Trust the programme and do it slow and steady, read all the good advice on the Forum and you too will be a Runner :)

Wishing you many happy miles in your future 🙂


Hi Decodolly,

You go for it girl. I am 56 and never considered myself a runner but have just completed the C25K. I understand your trepidation but if you follow the program and take it steady ( you can repeat weeks if you want to) you can get there. I have an autoimmune disease, have had a liver transplant and am also the full time carer for my elderly Mum. Running has given me something to focus on and take my mind off my personal issues - you might feel you have a lot going on, but if you can get through the program it gives you “head space” and some “me” time which sounds like it would be good for you

My advice would be to give it a go and best of luck!


Hi Decodolly, if you're are afraid, ask to your GP.

I'll be 59 at the end of november. Week 9 run 1 done on Wednesday. No particolar problem. If it's ok for GP, I suggest you this programme. Trust. You'll feel much better than now, stronger, happier. And here you can find a lot of very kind people that give many tips, are your supporter and listen to you. See you in next days



You're definitely not too old. The good thing about running is that you can start slowly,if you're struggling, try not to stop just slow down. As long as you have a decent pair of trainers and a sports bra (if you are a woman) then go for it!


Well- I'm sorry for all your grief and stress, I know what stress is myself but running is amazingly good for mental health. 56? I was 58. Stone and a half overweight? I still am, was slightly more when I started. A mile in 17 minutes is slightly above average pace in fact, most people take nearer 20. If you can walk for 30 minutes which I presume you can then you're fit enough. 5k is not a marathon, so forget about heart attacks if you don't have a pre-existing condition. However the target is not even 5k, just to be able to run for 30 minutes and after nine weeks most beginners cover less than 5k in that time. (I got another PB at parkrun today and it's STILL over 30 minutes - I graduated in July.) So you're not too old, not too overweight, and not too unfit. And you can't be too slow because the concept of too slow doesn't exist in this programme, it's not about speed. Go for it - the health benefits are well worth it, physically but especially mentally.


Go for it

55 severely overweight with cholesterol and high BP and just finished w8 today

You can do this

If I can anyone can 🏃‍♀️🏃‍♂️



Mr Fixx‘s story is part of this article as is Bob Harper’s (the training guru on biggest loser)

Running generally makes us healthier in every way, but it is recommended to be checked medically first.

It reduces the chance of getting many diseases, including heart issues, some cancers and even dementia. You do however have to die in some way, that’s a fact of life. Many running deaths have been attributed to poor hydration, and in long runs any issue there is going to me magnified. Marathon running, which many HM entrants are training to, does push us towards the limits of what is humanly possible, and so needs great preparation to run it fast. We aren’t doing that here, we are just running, partly for the health benefits. To go to marathon like distances is a different thing that some of us will do.

The reduction of deaths by other means probably does mean more runners die of heart attack than the population as a whole, but that’s more to do with the reduction of other illnesses than anything... statistics prove things in the newspapers when actually they’re proving something else.

Running is bad for the knees apparently... many doctors have and do believe this. However, it also strengthens them, the average age for needing knee replacement is considerably higher for runners than non runners... by about 18 years I read... that isn’t reported as much. Same with heart issues... it’s a big headline when a runner dies of a heart attack, not so much a headline when days later there’s a discovery of an underlying medical condition.

My nanna always said “you could get hit by a bus tomorrow”. She’s not wrong... more people die getting hit by cars than die of heart attacks in races. I choose to cross the road!

I would hazard a guess that for every million couch potatoes more of them die of a heart attack than for every million runners... so I choose running.

AlMorrGraduate in reply to UnfitNoMore

Surprised to read that cycling comes under 10 most dangerous sports at 10 . Running is not considered as dangerous and as we all known here on C25K is much more healthier for you than sitting on the couch. The most dangerous sport is base jumping, gymnastics, boxing and horse riding all are in the top ten of dangerous sports.

UnfitNoMoreGraduate in reply to AlMorr

Yeah... motor racing is way down the list, but statistically higher risk!

I remember reading a similar list of Australian animal related human deaths... spiders and snakes are way way down the list... horses and cows shockingly high! Until you think about it.

Elfe5Graduate in reply to AlMorr

I suspect the main risk in cycling is traffic & being knocked off. - unless you are the sort of cyclist who hurtles down steep mountain footpaths that were never intended for a bike! 😃

AlMorrGraduate in reply to Elfe5

Yes Elfe5 mountain biking is also dangerous, however, most of the cycling I do is off road or on minor B roads. I also do my runs, all off road, I certainly don't fancy running along a A road at any time soon but realise that training for a longer run of more than 10K might be necessary.


Definitely NOT. I've just turned 65 and graduated a couple of weeks ago. I ran 5ks a few years ago but had become very unfit and have been losing weight slowly since December. Did my first park run today and hope to build up to 10k now! C25k is a brilliant programme because you develop your own pace which is important but follow it and don't get over confident. Good luck!


Definitely not too old! I'm 72 and have not done any serious running since leaving school. I started back in July, and I have to say I've had my fair share of injuries, but having taken up Nordic Walking a year ago, and on our local walk, mostly on the flat I can average the 3 miles in 43 minutes, I probably thought it was going to be easy and went at it too fast so it served me right!! So, reading through all the comments on this excellent forum, I took stock. I altered my attitude and I now try to run mid foot ( I normally heel strike) taking much smaller steps, slowed down to my fast walking pace, 4mph, listened to "Laura" about not bobbing up and down, and have just completed W4 R2 and feel great. I do the recommended knee strengthening exercises, the warm down stretches etc., and regularly read the advice given by all on this forum. GO FOR IT!!

hey!im 57 and now on wk7 its a gradual build up,; follow the programme and you can do it!! 😊😊 this forum is inspirational too x


I you’re not too old. I started when I was 70 and have been running for a year. Somebody in their 80s graduated c25k last year. Lots of us in our 60s 70s st c on here.

Everybody hated running at school - except for the chosen few fast athletic kids. Schools only seem to be interested in sprint runners.


Welcome! 😀 You are certainly not too old. I started just over a year ago at the age of 58, with a similar amount of extra weight. There are many people of about my age and older on this forum.

The trick is to go very gently to begin with. It was a revelation to me to discover that it is okay to run at walking pace!( So a light jog). Indeed, a year on, I still only run slightly faster than my brisk walk. There are so many benefits for you to grab simply by starting the Couch to 5K program.😀 Remember it is your journey, to do at your own pace. If you post how are you are doing we will cheer you on. Good luck. 😄


Welcome to the forum..

This guide to the plan is essential reading and in there you will see mention of an 83 year old graduate last year.

Don't write yourself off as too old at 56!!!!!

This programme was designed by Josh Clark to encourage his 50 something mother to become active. Since then it has worked for countless thousands worldwide...........join us.


Go for it. Like others have said if you are worried go for a chat with your GP. Couch25k is very gradual build up to longer runs. I am 56 and had never ran in my life, hated PE in school etc.

Started couch25k this time last year and yesterday entered myself into a 10k! My husband thinks an alien has taken over my body!!! Enjoy running and do feel so so much fitter. Just listen to your body and don't push yourself too much. Bet you'll be so glad you started xxxxx

I’m 65 and been running 7 months, doing 8-9 miles now, park runs and 10ks all on a regular basis. If you are fit and well do it, it’s not just for physical well-being but also has benefits for mental health. I love it and now belong to a running club too.


I was (am) 68. You are a youngster. Get out there!

Check with the doc if you are concerned, but it would be surprising with your medical history if there was an issue. We are not talking about half marathons yet, just getting you fit. Running for 30 minutes 3 times a week will sort it, and you don't even have to do 5Km. It will help with losing weight, but you still need to do the watch-diet things too.

Most of us oldies can't do 5Km in 30 minutes, and don't try. My PB is 34, and half of that was down hill.

Great to have you with us! Welcome to the Runners.👍


I have only just started running at 53, overweight and arthritis in knees. Road running didn’t go well for the knees but have switched to treadmill whilst strengthening my glutes to take pressure off knees and I am loving it! Feel so good after a run and definitely helps stress levels for work. Never too old, go for it. Start slow, read all the advice you can but enjoy 😊


I'm 64 and by no means the oldest. I would like to be a stone and a half lighter too. If you are really worried about your ability to cope, go to your GP but as a cancer survivor and now a medication-free diabetic I'd say that you'd be pleasantly surprised with what the human body can do. The programme is brilliant and it prepares you to get better, fitter and stronger over the weeks. I couldn't stand running and struggled to jog for a minute at first but the weekly sense of achievement gives me a real buzz. Go for it and tell us all about it. Best wishes.


Welcome to c25k. As you can see they are a pretty friendly lot on the forum with lots of helpful advice. I was 60 when I started in March, officially overweight and taking high blood pressure tablets. I finished c25k in May and did my first 10k last week. I run parkrun most weekends which I love and have been taken off my medication. Just take it slowly and you’ll do fine. I can’t say I loved running while I was doing the programme but I loved the feeling of achievement at the end of each run. I now love running

Hi Decodolly,

I have just turned 58 and was overweight due to lack of exercise. Never smoked used to drink too much and had a generally rubbish diet for years. Spoke to GP about C25K she said go for it! On week 8 R2 and will tell you the following:

a) it is slow and gentle

b) you will feel pain

c) your problems disappear!

d) you will feel great

e) your sense of taste and smell will improve (mine did)

I hated running at school and when I played club rugby it’s pointless I thought. I am not going to say I am in love with running but feel the benefits are immense. I have lost nearly one stone and feel great. I love the buzz when I get back form my run.

If you are at all worries go and see your GP and have an MOT. As a lot of people have said it costs nothing and you get peace of mind!

Go for it!!


Another born in 1946 here. Currently doing Couch for the 3rd time. I got back into fitness by gentle racewalking, and have completed Couch a couple of times in my 70s. Currently on Week 7 for the third time. Friends tell me I am a fool, but I think they are just jealous....

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