Around one million downloads of fitness app during lockdown as people stay fit

A fitness tool backed by the NHS has been adopted by hundreds of thousands of people seeking to get in shape during lockdown.

New figures show that downloads of Public Health England’s ‘Couch to 5k’ app skyrocketed over the last three months.

From March until the end of June, there were almost one million downloads – 858,000 compared to 448,000 during the same time last year – a 92% increase compared to 2019.

Couch to 5k is a running plan for beginners provided by Public Health England, helping those who are unfit or don’t regularly take exercise to take positive steps for their health and fitness.

Designed for people who have done little or no running, the app provides guided commentary from a coach and easily helps users to track progress, with getting three runs per week.

Recent studies have shown that there is a clear link between covid and obesity with overweight and obese people making up six in 10 Covid-19 deaths in the UK.

Already used by millions across the country to kickstart running since it launched, NHS leaders have said the Couch to 5k programme and other fitness apps could aid even more people to lead healthier lifestyles.

More than two thirds of people in England are overweight or obese with 876,000 hospital admissions last year related to obesity – an increase of almost a quarter compared to the year before.

The news comes ahead of the anniversary this weekend of the foundation of the NHS, which will be marked by events across the country.

England’s top GP, Dr Nikki Kanani, has been running 5k during lockdown with her two children and said that it has boosted her own wellbeing.

Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS national director for primary care, said:

“Lockdown has been a difficult time for so many of us and with millions of people working in new ways and not doing the activities they usually would, we know that it can be much harder to get motivated to get up and go.

“It is incredible to see that practical tools like Couch to 5k have become even more popular over the last three months – keep going if you’ve started and download the app if you want to increase your activity levels. It won’t be the right solution for everyone, but it’s a simple way to begin and small steps can make a massive difference to your health and your lifestyle.

“We have all coped differently during lockdown, and for me, running and taking some time out to exercise with my children has been really important for me – we’ve seen huge benefits physically, mentally and for our general wellbeing.”

Rosanna O’Connor, Acting Director, Health Improvement at Public Health England said: 

“Lockdown has been challenging for us all but it’s hugely positive to see so many people using this opportunity to get more active and using Public Health England’s app, part of its Couch to 5k campaign. Keeping active is not only good for our physical health but also crucially at this time helping us look after our mental health. And staying fit and healthy means we’re also playing our part in supporting the NHS.”

The NHS Long Term Plan set out radical action to combat the rising obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic, including expanding the world leading type 2 Diabetes Prevention Programme so 200,000 a year could benefit and piloting very low calorie diets from September for 5,000 people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes.

Recent data from EE also found that other fitness apps had surges during lockdown with MapMyRun usage doubling and three times as many people using Strava, while over one million people in the UK bought a bike during lockdown