Strava, the social fitness network and movement-tracking platform, is one of the most popular exercise apps in the world. It supports a community of more than 36 million athletes in 195 countries who upload activities every 20 seconds. That’s a lot of people, a lot of movement, and naturally, a lot of data.
Now, Strava is sharing that information with the public in its 2018 Year In Sport report, which provides a look at high-level trends in athlete behavior, covering activities logged by 5K runners and boutique fitness studio attendees, to Olympians, pro athletes, and even Mount Everest summiters.
“We say that if you sweat, you’re an athlete,” James Quarles, Strava CEO, tells SELF via email of the impetus of the report, “and with nearly 2 billion activities shared on Strava since our founding [in 2009], we’re in a unique position to spot trends and share insights about what’s happening with athletes. We hope that the insights in the report motivate athletes to keep moving and inspire them to do more of the activities they love.”
On that note, we’ve rounded up the most interesting insights from the report. The data, compiled between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018 [a time period referred to as just "2018" from here forward, for simplicity], includes information from all 36 million people who use Strava and was aggregated and de-identified to respect athlete privacy.
Two factors lead to increased activity and help athletes stay active longer: goal setting and working out with someone.
The global data revealed the power of both goal setting and community in helping athletes log consistent activity.
Athletes around the world who set annual goals, either in distance or time, were more likely to stay active throughout the year. Cyclists who set such benchmarks showed a median increase in uploads of 15.1 percent six months after proclaiming their goal, and runners showed an increase of 14.7 percent in the same time period.
On top of that, athletes who worked out together tended to upload longer activities. Group cyclists, for example, covered an average of 30.5 miles per ride compared to the 17.8 miles covered by the average lone biker. Group hikers logged an average of 135 minutes per hike compared to the 100 minutes logged by solitary hikers. In that vein, athletes who joined a club uploaded more than three times as many activities as nonclub members (88.7 average uploads versus 25.2).
More people than ever are biking and even running (!) to work.
Exercise isn't just a leisure-time activity anymore. More people than ever are sweating their way to work as rates of bike- and run-commuting reached an all-time high in 2018. Strava users in the U.S. logged more than 11 million biking commutes in 2018 (up from 8.4 million in 2017, a year-over-year change of 30.8 percent), and more than 3.6 million running commutes (up from 2.3 million the previous year, a year-over-year change of 56.8 percent).
The exercise commuting trend is growing particularly fast in certain states. Bike commuting grew by more than 40 percent from 2017 to 2018 in New Mexico, Arizona, Washington, and Alaska. Run-commuting increased during the same period by more than 70 percent in North Dakota, Mississippi, Arkansas, Rhode Island, and Florida. Cyclist commuters in Mississippi and run-commuters in Utah are arguably the most hardcore—they logged the longest average commutes of 14.1 miles and 4.7 miles, respectively.
All that movement, of course, is great for the health of commuters—and also the health of our planet. Together, these bike- and run-commuters in the U.S. offset 156.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide in 2018. Worldwide, bike- and run-commuting offset more than 1.3 billion pounds of CO2. (Calculations are based on EPA intel that the average passenger vehicle emits about 404 grams of CO2 per mile.)
American athletes are most active on Tuesdays—and laziest on Sundays.
Across the country, Tuesdays were the peak day for intense activity. Out of any day of the week, American bikers averaged the fastest speed—13.67 miles per hour—on Tuesdays, and runners averaged the fastest pace—9 minutes and 34 seconds per mile—that day as well. Sunday, it seems, is the “take it easy” day for many athletes, with both bikers and runners averaging their slowest speeds that day (12.89 miles per hour, and 10 minutes, 1 second per mile, respectively).
Tuesdays were also the most popular day for indoor activities, with 17.5 percent of all indoor activities completed on a Tuesday. Not surprisingly, rates of indoor exercising dropped significantly over the weekend, with just 11 percent of indoor workouts completed on Saturday, and 10.5 percent completed on Sunday.
Americans apparently really like to work out on holidays. Well, certain holidays, that is.
Thanks to the increasing popularity of the Turkey Trot, Thursday, November 23—Thanksgiving Day 2017—was the most popular day for running in the U.S., with 169.9K runs logged that day. Strava recorded 10,404 Turkey Trot races that day averaging 4.5 miles in distance.
Wednesday, July 4 was the most popular day for overall activity in the U.S., with 428.1K activities logged, and Saturday, July 14, though not a holiday, was the biggest day of cycling, with 222.1K rides logged across the country.
The most popular biking and running routes in the country are, not surprisingly, in the most populated city.
The most frequented running route in the U.S.—and also the world—was the 5K loop in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which garnered 98,503 attempts. The most popular biking route in the U.S. (though not globally—that goes to the Box Hill route in Dorking, U.K.) was the Central Park Loop, which saw 425,262 attempts. Not too bad for the Concrete Jungle.