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‘Year In Sport’: Strava’s Annual Report Reveals Top Trends — and Setbacks

More heat equals more indoor workouts: Three out of four Strava users reported that the year's record heat affected their exercise plans in 2023.

runner in hot weatherThree of four athletes said extreme heat contributed to their exercise habits in 2023, according to a Strava survey; (photo/Shutterstock)
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In the last 2 years, the popular workout app Strava has doubled its users, reaching more than 100 million athletes in 2023. That has given the platform an abundance of data about the world’s changing exercise habits. In its annual report for 2023, Strava pulled from a global survey of 6,990 individuals. They were drawn from Strava’s community as well as a random sample of active people — including some that don’t use Strava.

The results cover a range of topics, like driving factors for exercise (extreme heat and social interaction), the fastest-growing sports (running and gravel biking), and even the most popular gear (Hoka Clifton won big for both men and women).

Let’s get into the details.

Over three out of four survey respondents said having a pet helped them get outside more; (photo/Shutterstock)

Strava Report: Barriers to Exercise

As countries around the globe experienced record heat waves, more athletes decided to tap the app’s indoor workout routines, the report said. A large majority of users (75%) said that extreme heat affected their exercise plans this year. And more than a quarter of survey respondents (27%) said poor air quality was an issue.

The other big obstacle to working out more was simple: our dumb jobs. In fact, over two-thirds of Strava athletes said a lack of time caused by work demands was a top barrier to exercise.

But even as the younger folks in Generation Z hustled in 2023 (39% of them started new jobs and 30% relocated), many remained dedicated to working out. Despite the changes to their work, these young-uns (usually under 26 years old) were 32% more likely to report being fitter than the previous year.

After that, Strava broke down differences by gender.

Men on Strava were 13% more likely than women to cite household responsibilities as an obstacle to working out. Women, on the other hand, were 9% more likely than men to cite a lack of safe places to exercise.

Author Mary Murphy wearing the Club Ride Eden Shorts while gravel biking
Gravel biking’s popularity is growing fast, according to Strava; (photo/Katie Botwin)

Strava Report: Top Sports

Many of Strava’s stats won’t surprise anyone paying attention to the outdoors industry over the last few years.

Gravel biking became one of the platform’s fastest-growing activities this year. Globally, it showed a 55% increase compared to the number of athletes who tried in 2022. Among only U.S. users, the biking trend still grew by 48%.

As for cycling in general, Strava’s data suggests that many of those who took up the sport during the pandemic haven’t slowed down. The share of cyclists on Strava who’ve ridden a metric century (100km) rose 5% in 2023. And yes, e-bike activities also continued to grow. The number of athletes who recorded an e-bike ride rose a whopping 23%.

Overall, running remained the most popular activity, and grew by another 5% compared to 2022.

Surveyed athletes cited the Nike Pegasus as a favorite, making the top spot for men and the second spot for most popular for both genders; (photo/Nike)

Strava Report: Top Gear

In the category of preferred running shoes, the Hoka Clifton and Nike Pegasus were highly popular among both men and women. Other popular shoes included the Brooks Ghost and the Asics Novablast.

Garmin took both of the top two choices for uploading devices while using Strava, including the Edge 350 and the Forerunner 235. As for the most popular bike brands, they shouldn’t shock anyone. Preferred brands start with Trek, and then move to Specialized and Giant. Strava’s report does not, sadly, include preferences about e-bike models. Maybe next year!

Strava Report: Generational Differences

The app is also becoming more popular among those seeking a community of other online users — especially young people. Over half of Strava athletes said they’re most motivated by friends or family members who exercise.

It’s even more prevalent among Generation Z, often called the first “digitally native” generation. Among these users, typically 26 years old or younger, 77% said they feel more connected when seeing their friends or family’s activities on Strava.

Of four generations, Generation X earned the most special achievements, like course records, in 2023; (photo/Shutterstock)

By combining these findings with activity data from the app, the report provides a glimpse into the trends influencing how people exercise.

One of the standout revelations was that social connection emerged as the primary motivator for exercising. Strava users across the generations cited social connection as their top reason for exercising with others. For example, Gen Z was found to be 29% more likely than Millennials to engage in workouts with others.

In terms of performance, however, the differences get complicated. On the one hand, these young people logged the fastest median run and ride. However, they also didn’t run or ride as long as Generation X or even Baby Boomers. And in terms of race wins and course records, Generation X came out solidly on top, being twice as likely to earn a “crown,” or special achievement, than Gen Z. (Take that, you rascals!)

Still thirsty for more stats? Check out Strava’s full U.S. report and its global report online.

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