The benefits of learning to run

Dr Carolyn Plateau and Dr Clare Stevinson - Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences
Sport and Exercise

Carolyn Plateau and Clare Stevinson are studying the impact of running on the health and wellbeing of absolute beginners.

Taking up running as an adult can be challenging. Learn-to-run programmes help beginners to get started, but little is known about how easy it is to stick with it and the benefits of doing so.

Dr Plateau and Dr Stevinson led a three-part research project in collaboration with colleague Dr Stacy Clemes involving adults enrolled on community-based 10-week supervised learn-to-run group programmes.

Data was collected by a series of questionnaires and diaries as well as before-and-after fitness and health testing.

By the end of the 10 weeks, 74% of participants had achieved their goal of running non-stop for 30 minutes, but 33% reported an injury. Significant improvements were observed in mental wellbeing, body image, identity as a runner, physical activity levels, and perceived fitness. In addition, improvements in cardiovascular fitness and body composition were recorded.

Analysis of participant diaries revealed positive changes over the programme in interpretation of physical sensations, the transition from apprehension to a sense of achievement, and the importance of social support for sticking to the programme.

Next steps for the researchers include examining whether these programmes lead to long-term exercise habits, and additional psychological and physical health benefits.