Public Health England’s (PHE) Couch to 5k fitness app has reached nearly one million downloads in the months since coronavirus first hit Britain.
From March to the end of June, the NHS-backed fitness tool was downloaded 858,000 times, compared to 448,000 downloads in 2019 - a 92 per cent increase.
The app generates a beginner's running plan, with three runs per week, for people who have done little or no running. It includes guided commentary and allows users to track their progress.
Recent studies have directly linked obesity to Covid-19, with individuals classed as obese or overweight accounting for six in 10 of those who have died with the virus. Currently in England, over two thirds of people are overweight or obese with 876,000 hospital admissions in 2019 related to obesity. This is an increase of almost a quarter compared to 2018.
Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS national director for primary care, said she had used the app herself. She commented: “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".
Rosanna O’Connor, acting director, health improvement at PHE, agreed that exercise can benefit both the mind and body. “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."