Strava and Stanford University Joint Study Finds COVID-19 has Impacted Well-Being and Motivation of U.S. Professional Athletes
New study shows the mental, physical, and financial effects the pandemic has had on the athletic community
SAN FRANCISCO (October 20, 2020) — Strava, the leading platform for athletes and the world’s biggest sports community with over 70 million athletes, today announced the release of a study done in partnership with Stanford University regarding the impact of COVID-19 on professional athletes. The study, Impacts of COVID-19 on Professional Athletes, surveyed 131 professional athletes in the United States and demonstrates the financial, personal, and motivational costs of the COVID-19 pandemic on the athletic community. While the study reveals substantial behavior changes including dramatically-altered training schedules, it also highlights the perseverance and resilience of the professional athletic community during one of the most challenging periods in modern history.
“It’s clear from the study that COVID-19 has had broad implications on the athletic community, particularly when it comes to mental health,” said Dr. Megan Roche, a clinical researcher and epidemiology PhD candidate at Stanford University. “This partnership with Strava enabled us to gain a holistic understanding of what the broader professional athletic community is going through. Combined with the changing landscape of sport and exercise, we can better understand the far-reaching impacts on the athletic community as a whole, along with possible interventions.”
Senior Author, Stanford Professor and Sports Medicine Physician Dr. Michael Fredericson said, “This study’s findings will help guide our approach to maximizing health in elite athletes around the country during this unprecedented time. While I am incredibly impressed with the fortitude in these professional athletes, we now have clear evidence of the toll this is taking on their mental health. Uncontrolled stress can lower the body’s immune response as well as impair the ability to recover fully from intense exercise, and we need to provide additional resources to help athletes address these challenges.”
Key findings from the Impacts of COVID-19 on Professional Athletes report include:
- Professional endurance athletes reported significant mental health impacts
- 1 in 5 athletes reported difficulty exercising related to mental health, motivation, and COVID-19
- Before COVID-19 restrictions, 3.9% of athletes reported feeling down or depressed more than half the days in a week compared to 22.5% during COVID-19 restrictions, a 5.8X increase
- Before COVID-19 restrictions, 4.7% of athletes reported feeling nervous/anxious more than half the days in a week compared to 27.9% during COVID-19 restrictions, a 5.9X increase
- COVID-19 affected athletes financially
- 71% of athletes surveyed worry about receiving financial compensation for their athletic activities during COVID-19 restrictions
- Athlete activity habits were altered due to COVID-19
- 31% of athletes reported increasing the duration of training sessions during the survey timeframe
- 17% of athletes reported increasing the intensity of training sessions during the survey timeframe
- Activity data from Strava indicated that professional athletes exercised for 92 minutes per day on average before COVID-19 restrictions, and 103 minutes per day during COVID-19 restrictions
The first half of the year was extremely disruptive to sports with the cancellation of global athletic events, including the 2020 Olympics and dozens of prominent marathons, including the Boston Marathon, New York Marathon, and Chicago Marathon. However, there are indications that the athletic community is starting to figure out solutions to compete safely including the successful completion of the Tour de France and the booming interest in virtual marathons.
“Athletes at every level rely on resilience and perseverance to hit their goals and I appreciate the candor of the elite athletes who participated and are showing other athletes they’re not alone in their adversity. Even in this extraordinarily challenging year it’s clear that the athletic community continues to strive,” said Michael Horvath, Strava CEO. “We’re proud to partner with Stanford and Dr. Fredericson and Dr. Roche for this important examination of what the world’s professional athletes have experienced this year.”
You can download a summary of the full findings here.
This survey was conducted in partnership by Strava and Stanford University. It includes the responses of 131 verified professional endurance athletes in the United States, including cyclists, runners and triathletes on the Strava platform. Athletes completed a 30-question survey and 114 athletes provided authorization to have their activity data analyzed. Pre-COVID-19 signifies dates between January 1, 2020 – March 14, 2020 and during COVID-19 signifies dates between March 15, 2020 – August 20, 2020. The survey was conducted from August 12, 2020 through August 25, 2020. Population of professional athletes: 44% runner, 39% cyclist, 11% triathlete, 6% other
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About Stanford University
Stanford University is one of the nation’s strongest teaching and research institutions. Dr. Fredericson, the study principal investigator, is a Professor in the Orthopaedic Surgery Department with a specialization in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Roche, the study lead researcher, received her medical degree from Stanford University in 2018 and is a PhD candidate in epidemiology. Dr. Fredericson and Dr. Roche’s research focuses include sports medicine, lifestyle medicine, and epidemiology.
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