The Effect on Exercise Motivation During a Pandemic


Today we would like to take an educated observation into how a pandemic, in this case Covid-19, can affect the motivation to exercise. We will look at a few studies detailing the pandemic’s affect on runners, sports participation, and where an individual exercised. To start things off, Runrepeat.com, the world’s largest online, athletic shoe review company, as noted on its site, surveyed 3961 current runners to understand how many of those runners began their first steps to fitness during the Covid-19 pandemic. It appears that 28.76 % of the current runners were motivated to strap on their running shoes and head out during the pandemic.

This result compares to doing outdoor activities, as the top trend in 2020 and in 2021 – consisting of running, hiking, walking, cycling, and any other form of outdoor workouts, exercises, or training. Exercising outdoors, notes the website, “was voted the best way to stay fit in 2021 by 59.1% of active adults, increasing 14.6% from the start of 2020.”

It was also determined that 19.82% of the novice runners were less likely to participate races in-person over the following 12 months – an assumed pandemic-related fear of crowds. 

“Motives for running are changing – physical health is the primary motivation for 72% of new-pandemic runners, up 18.03% from runners who began running before the pandemic,” according to the website.

The survey noted the following data points: 34.27% less likely to run for competition or achievement, 31.44% less likely to run for social interaction, 14.81% less likely to run for mental or emotional health, 3.00% less likely to run for their confidence or self-esteem.

The study investigators concluded that, “there has been a significant boom in running during the pandemic. The situation and circumstances that these people have taken up running are drastically different than their pre-pandemic counterparts.”

Another trend that has grown in popularity is exercising at home – spawned by the pandemic world-wide lockdowns. Notes the survey, “a lot of people made the decision to start investing in at-home gym equipment or make use of the fitness equipment they already had” – with the percentage of active adults seeing at-home fitness equipment, as the best way to stay fit increased by 49.6%, making it the fastest growing trend of 2021. In the US, this trend has grown explosively by 218.3%.

The pandemic took a hit on sports participation – with the percentage of active adults relying on sports to stay fit decreasing by 25.2% over the year, noting only 6.0% still seeing it as their best option for 2021. Female sports participation saw a decrease in this trend – down 53.0% – which was more than double that for men, who were down by 23.8%.

Another characteristic change, resulting from the pandemic, was the positive impact of online fitness content, courses, classes, and subscriptions. “The trend of online fitness exploded in America, with 134.7% more active American adults switching to this new trend to reach their fitness goals, as the pandemic continues into 2021, noted the Runpeat survey. 

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