We are all supposed to get off the couch and be active. One thing that is not healthy is to always be sedentary. Our minds and bodies are made for activity and work, as these are the keys to a long and fruitful life.

Very few people would argue against the idea of activity and exercise. But how much activity or exercise should we have? And if we have an exercise goal, how do we get there?

Over the last couple of years, a running-exercise plan called “Couch to 5K” has risen, which basically says in simplistic form that it is a process of building up a person’s fitness over a couple of months, leading a person from the couch to be able to run 5,000 meters.

Let’s slow down – we’re not saying run a 5K in a race or set some age-group record. All we’re saying is being able to walk out the door with your running shoes and be able to run continuously for 3.1 miles.

How do you do it, and is it ultimately healthy?

Here is the basic idea: You spend 30 minutes a day, three days a week for about nine weeks, and you are supposedly ready to run a 5K. To get into more detail, here is how it works:

  • Get to a point in your fitness where you can walk for 30 consecutive minutes comfortably.
  • Be consistent. Don’t switch from time to distance and back again. Yes, when you mostly walk a 5K to start, it will take you more than 30 minutes, but eventually you will get to jogging a 5K in that 30-minute time frame.
  • The strict schedule is nine weeks, but don’t be afraid to give yourself an extra weke or two to account for illness, body rest and for training at the distance before actually running in a race.
  • Do this three times a week, and never two days in a row.
  • On “off” days, do some kind of cross training like weightg training or bicycling. Give yourself at least one day of full rest and recovery each week. Even Olympic athletes have a full day off each week.
  • In the first week, split up your workout into six segments, and do a walk and a jog in each segment. Try three minutes walking, two minutes jogging in each segment, for example.
  • Check your body after the first week for any aches or pains. If you feel some lingering aches more than a couple days after your last workout of the week, do the first week schedule again for another week, and continue until you no longer feel achy.
  • For week two, increase your jogging in those six segments, or change to five segements with more jogging than walking (four minute jog, two walk, for example)..
  • In week three, you can vary things by doing a pyramid, where your workout is split into five segments. If you go by time, segments 1 and 5 are three minutes jogging, one minute walking; segments 2 and 4 are four minutes jogging, one minute walking; and segment 3 is five minutes jogging, two minutes walking.
  • In week four, you split your workout into five segments, with five minutes jogging and one minute walking in each.
  • Week five is a “break” week, where you do week four again, except twice that week instead of three times.
  • Week six is back to three days, with another pyramid – segments 1 and 5 are five jog, 1 walk; segments 2 an d 4 are seven jog, one walk; segment 3 is eight jog, one walk.
  • Week seven is doing three segments of nine minutes jogging and one minute walking in each.
  • Week eight is jogging 10 minutes, walking one for three segments.

By the time you get done with this program, you essentially are jogging for 30 minutes, or about 5,000 meters in total distance. After this, you are working on increasing your jog-to-walk ratio until you can jog for 30 minutes continuously. Then you are working on some speed as well. You can also increase from three days a week to four, but do not run on consecutive days until you can not feel any ache or pain during a rest day.

And again, don’t move on to the next week just because it’s on the calendar. Listen to your body and do a week’s workout a second or third week if you need to. Don’t rush anything, and don’t keep working out if your aches become pains that don’t go away. This isn’t worth serious injuries that will leave you laid up for a while- keeping you from laying around is the whole point of this!

Generally, is the Couch to 5K system healthy? Yes, provided that you go slow and follow the schedule.  This will improve your health, help you lose weight, gain more energy and mental focus and will strengthen your body because of the activity.