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Strava encourages obsessive tendencies

Is Strava good for your mental health?

Strava can create “obsessive tendencies which need to be avoided" in cyclists, according to a new university study.

The study explores how fitness apps, such as Strava, affect a person’s wellbeing.

The apps were found to be a “doubled-edged sword” for cyclists.

Although large number of riders use the app to congratulate other cyclists, some use them simply because they need to be told how brilliant they are. 

The research, which comes from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and involved interviews with 272 cyclists, found that fitness apps can help encourage exercise routines, but can also spark an unhealthy attitudes towards fitness.

Researchers found that apps like Strava, Nike+, MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, and Fitocracy, are ‘gamified’ to provide rewards and encourage users to keep tracking their exercise.

Dr Eoin Whelan, a senior lecturer in business information systems at the JE Cairnes School of Business and Econonics, said: “The majority of exercisers are now using digital technology to track and share their workout data in order to support their fitness goals. But these fitness apps can be a double-edged sword.

“Our study suggests fitness sharing apps can certainly help seed and sustain exercise routines, but there is a danger that some users may develop obsessive tendencies, which need to be avoided."

Those who use Strava for reciprocation give support and encouragement to other athletes, and are more likely to have a healthy passion for cycling.

Conversely, those who use the apps for social recognition – to receive praise and public endorsement – are more likely to become obsessed with the sport and consequently suffer higher stress levels. 

Dr Whelan said: “Fitness app social features which promote self-recognition, such as posting only positive workout data or photos, can be linked to maladaptive perceptions of exercise and burnout in the long run. In contrast, fitness app social features which promote reciprocation, such as giving support and commenting on colleagues’ activities, are likely to lead to adaptive outcomes.”

The full study, ‘How the social dimension of fitness apps can enhance and undermine wellbeing’, is published in the journal Information Technology & People. 

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