Strava reveals Britain as the most active global nation in response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Jane McGuire
·3-min read
Photo credit: Harry George Hall
Photo credit: Harry George Hall

From Runner's World

What a difference a year makes. Normally, the Strava Year in Sport data tells us, for example, how much we’re likely to exercise if we do so with friends compared with running alone, or the most popular shoe worn at major marathons during the year. You know, normal stuff. This year, unsurprisingly, the stats give us an insight into the how we reacted to the pandemic.

Data from the 73 million people using Strava shows how this huge online community has exercised since lockdowns were introduced. But what have we been doing?

We’ve been moving more than ever

Strava data confirms what most of us suspected: the pandemic led to an exercise boom, at least in some sports. In 2020, the platform gained two million new members per month, with a total of 21.5 million uploads per week. The Strava team wrote in the report, ‘At the global level, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a rise of activity on Strava like we’ve never seen before, far surpassing our normal projections.’

Photo credit: Strava
Photo credit: Strava

In the UK, from March to May, members logged 82 per cent more outdoor activities than would be expected for that time of year, making the UK the most active global nation for outdoor activity. Dramatic growth was also seen in the US and Germany, two other countries with fewer restrictions on outdoor exercise.

We’re walking and hiking more

Although running and cycling are by far the most popular activities recorded on Strava, there has also been enormous growth in walking, hiking and indoor cross-training activities such as yoga and weightlifting. Interestingly, water sports such as kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding also grew in popularity, according to the data.

From April to June, the top new activity for runners on the platform was an outdoor bike ride, with 11.2 per cent of runners recording a ride for the first time. In reasonably paced pursuit was outdoor walking, with 10.8 per cent of runners uploading their first such foray onto the platform.

For cyclists, the top new activity in the same period was an outdoor walk, with 8.5 per cent of cyclists already on Strava heading out for an amble; 5.6 per cent of cyclists also recorded their first outdoor run during this time.

Photo credit: Harry George Hall
Photo credit: Harry George Hall

We’re creating new routines

As a lot of us waved goodbye to the morning commute, we learned to love the lie-in and our morning runs and rides tended to start later in the day. We also began to run and ride at different times of the day, rather than cramming in all our miles at the weekend.

We’re running together, virtually

Hopefully, 2021 will see the return of events such as parkrun and larger running-club nights, but despite the enforced solitude of recent months, we’ve still been exercising together. Strava reported that 172,000 new clubs were created on the platform this year and that the average person using the platform followed almost twice as many others this April than last.

Over one million people joined the Strava monthly 5K challenge in May – the most runners the service has ever recorded for a single event.

Michael Horvath, CEO and co-founder of Strava, said: 'During a challenging year, it has been a privilege to connect athletes to what motivates them and help them find their personal best. Community members shared more than a billion activities including nearly 400 million photos with each other, from solitary virtual marathons and Everesting bike rides to midday walks while working from home. And through it all, athletes from around the world cheered each other on, proving that every effort counts and people keep people active.'

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