Physical activity improves physical and mental well-being and reduces mortality risk. However, only a quarter of adults globally meet recommended physical activity levels for health. Two common initiatives in the UK are Couch-to-5k (an app-assisted 9-week walk/run programme) and parkrun (a free, weekly, timed 5-km walk/run). It is not known how these initiatives are linked, how Couch-to-5k parkrunners compare to parkrunners, and the extent to which this influences their parkrun performance. The aims were to compare the characteristics and motives and to compare physical activity levels, parkrun performance and the impact of parkrun between Couch-to-5k parkrunners and parkrunners. Three thousand two hundred and ninety six Couch-to-5k parkrunners were compared to 55,923 parkrunners to explore age, sex, ethnicity, employment status, neighbourhood deprivation, motives, physical activity levels, parkrun performance and the impact of parkrun. Couch-to-5k parkrunners were slightly older, more likely to be female and work part-time, but similar in ethnicity, and neighbourhood deprivation compared with other parkrunners. Couch-to-5k parkrunners had different motives for participation and reported high levels of physical activity at registration, which remained to the point of survey completion. This group had slower parkrun times but, when registered for a year, completed a similar number of runs (11) per year. Larger proportions of Couch-to-5k parkrunners perceived positive impacts compared with other parkrunners and 65% of Couch-to-5k parkrunners reported improvements to their lifestyle. parkrun appears to be an effective pathway for those on the Couch-to-5k programme, and the promising positive association between the two initiatives may be effective in assisting previously inactive participants to take part in weekly physical activity.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.