Couch to Fitness is a free, beginner friendly online fitness programme established by Our Parks in summer 2020 in response to the pandemic as they were unable to run their in-person sessions.
Why was Couch to Fitness created?
The Couch to Fitness product was developed to make at-home workouts accessible for those new or returning to exercise.
From the Our Parks’ user base, we knew how daunting it can be for people to start an exercise programme or class, especially if they haven’t been active for a while (or ever).
Using this knowledge, the Couch to Fitness programme was developed during the pandemic in 2020 as an easy-to-access physical activity initiative to engage groups whose activity levels are traditionally lower and were hit the hardest during lockdowns (in particular, Black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds and people living in deprived areas)
We designed the programme to help beginners start small and build up their activity gradually- users follow along to short workout videos (30 minutess in duration) over a nine-week period (or at their own pace).
The programme is now helping thousands of people to start their journey to a more active lifestyle with over 150,000 people having joined the programme so far and 40% of our users completing the full nine weeks.
We are also really pleased to see that we’ve been successful in attracting large proportions of users from our target demographics as our data shows that 46% of active users are from ethnically diverse communities and 45% are classed as inactive at registration.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT EXERCISE AND ACTIVITY IS MADE AS SUITABLE AS POSSIBLE BY ORGANISATIONS LIKE YOURS?
Suitability is extremely important when it comes to online exercise provision; through Sport England’s insight we understood that the at-home workout space was oversaturated with workouts tailored for those who are already physically active andthere was not a specific point of entry for those less active to participate and follow high quality on-demand programmes.
Therefore when we created Couch to Fitness, we aimed for this to be that obvious entry point for anyone to be able to start their fitness journey and we included several features both on the website and within the videos themselves that ensured users felt supported and encouraged to take part in the programme and progress through it at a pace that works for them.
For example, there are always three instructors on screen within each video who are all working at different intensity levels and users are encouraged to follow whichever level feels appropriate for them on the day. Also we really encourage users to repeat days or weeks of the programme if they wish to make sure they feel comfortable moving onto a slightly more challenging workout before progressing.
Despite not originally developing Couch to Fitness with a female audience in mind, we saw that 91% of our users were women. Therefore, to further tap into – and correct – the lack of suitable provision for some female sub-groups we went on to launch Couch to Fitness Pre & Postnatal in September 2022.
These two six-week programmes aimed to help pregnant women and new mums feel confident to begin or maintain their fitness journey in an appropriate way during a time when they are often given conflicting and confusing advice on how to stay active.
We worked closely with the Active Pregnancy Foundation to ensure the programmes were suitable and effective for this audience, as well as using their expertise to create a comprehensive screening questionnaire to be completed by every new user at the start of these programmes to mitigate as much risk as possible.
As well as ensuring the programmes themselves were suitable for women, we are really proud of the way we’ve promoted these sessions and in particular our continued commitment to having diversity seen throughout the Couch to Fitness workout videos and social media assets.
It is important to us that our programme remains relatable to inactive, ethnically diverse communities and women – of all body types, so we have predominantly sourced real stories from women who have used Couch to Fitness to feature within our promotional material who will feel relatable to our community.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO OTHER PEOPLE THINKING OF STARTING THEIR OWN GROUP OR CHANGING SOMETHING IN THEIR LOCAL AREAS?
Start with the user and target audience you want to attract or improve things for, understanding exactly what they need is key to a successful (and suitable!) intervention.
The success of Couch to Fitness is due to the programme being co-designed with its users – build foundations and then implement feedback from the audience for a bottom-up approach.
We did this by using the Facebook group as our unofficial sounding board – helping shape the strategy based on those who need, and actually use, the product.
Also, use actionable metrics when measuring your initiative, being able to pin down the success of a Facebook ad or new feature you have implemented is key to learning from and growing the platform or programme you’ve created – we have learnt that authentic storytelling is worth a billion impressions.