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Women fuel explosive growth in Strava activities during 2020

UK & Ireland saw strongest growth globally in outdoor exercise according to Year In Sport report

Strava says that women have flocked to post their fitness activities to the ride-and-run-tracking platform this year, with quieter roads as a result of lockdowns imposed around the world due to the coronavirus pandemic believed to have helped encourage many to cycle more.

Publishing its 2020 Year In Sport report today, the social network for athletes also says that it has seen almost twice as many runs and bike rides and three times the number of walks uploaded this year compared to 2019, for a total of 1.1 billion.

Among Strava’s 73 million users globally, those in the UK & Ireland showed the greatest increase in outdoor activity, up by 82 per cent, compared to 45 per cent in Germany and 28 per cent in the United States.

Activities posted by women in the UK & Ireland were up 69 per cent year on year, with particularly strong growth in the 18-29 age group, where an increase of 108 per cent was recorded, compared to growth of 92 per cent among men of the same age.

The number of bike rides uploaded by women in the UK & Ireland doubled in 2019, with 100.2 per cent growth, while among men the increase was 38.7 per cent.

Globally, an aggregate bike ride distance of 13 billion kilometres was posted to Strava during the year – 1.5 billion of that by cyclists in the UK & Ireland, with an average distance per ride of 20.2 kilometres and an average duration of just over an hour.

> Strava Metro made free to cities worldwide, including UK, to help encourage sustainable travel post-pandemic

Quoted in the Guardian, Simon Kilma, Strava’s director of international marketing, said that the growth “was nothing like we’ve seen before and far surpassed our projections based on historical trends.

“We’ve seen a real boost from women in terms of overall activity levels during the pandemic year,” he continued.

“There could be several reasons for that but in the past our research has found that one of the biggest blocks for women to cycling is a perceived safety risk.

“But during the pandemic women perhaps felt safer to take to their bicycles, thanks to some temporary infrastructure improvements and quieter roads.”

“As well as cycling, there’s also been a greater adoption of running, perhaps partly as an alternative for gym classes,” he added.

“But working from home also gives some people freedom to be active during the day as they spend less time commuting to an office. It has allowed people to take control of their calendars a little bit more and to find more time for being active.”

The report highlights how different lockdown regimes imposed by governments around the world impacted the activities uploaded.

In Spain and Italy, for example, where very strict lockdowns were imposed including banning exercise away from the home, the number of activities uploaded in March and April were two thirds less than expected.

Once restrictions eased though and pent-up demand was released, they shot up, with activities uploaded in Spain in May 51 per cent higher than expected and in Italy, 30 per cent.

In the UK & Ireland, where lockdown restrictions regarding outdoor exercise, particularly in England, were less onerous, activities uploaded were 82 per cent ahead of expectations in March and April.

Some Strava users, however, had the spotlight shone on them after uploading their bike rides – with The Sunday Times, for example, singling out cyclists participating in a monthly distance challenge during April.

> Sunday Times names and shames cyclists racking up miles on Strava

The clear insinuation was that they were breaking lockdown rules – in spirit, if not letter, with the regulations in force in England not specifying limits on distance away from home or time spent exercising.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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