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Strava study finds professional athletes are struggling with mental health

Professional athletes reported a 27 per cent increase in anxiety due to the pandemic

A joint study between Strava and Stanford University has explored how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted elements of daily life for professional athletes and how these changes have affected both their mental and physical health. The results of the study demonstrate that the pandemic has been hard on the motivation and mental health of professional athletes – just like everyone else. But it’s not all bad news, as some participants reported that they felt more physically fit than before the pandemic. Here’s a look at the findings. 

Photo: Strava

The study surveyed 131 professional athletes, all of whom typically spend time training in close quarters and travelling globally, to see how they’d adapted to the changes they have been facing. These professionals (a mix of runners, cyclists and triathletes) were surveyed between March and August. 

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One in five athletes reported difficulties due to mental health

Of the athletes who participated, one in five reported difficulties in training due to their mental health, with a 22 per cent increase in reported depression and a 27 per cent increase in reported anxiety. This increase in depression and anxiety, for some runners, had an effect on their training, and for nearly half, their training efforts weren’t compensated in the same way due to the pandemic.

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Strava athletes reported that nearly half of them were facing sponsorship reductions due to the pandemic, which is the primary source of income for many professionals. Through the spring, some runners were putting on their own meets to try and fulfill sponsor obligations and avoid contract reductions, but not everyone had the resources to do this. 

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Not all bad news

While some of these stats paint a bleak picture, nearly half of the athletes also reported that they felt fitter despite COVID-19 restrictions, with 31 per cent noting that they have trained more than before during the pandemic.

Everyone is different, and some people were better equipped to deal with the pandemic than others. Some had the tools to cope with the pandemic, and it appears that they were able to come out healthy and fit. If you were able to maintain your physical fitness and mental health through the pandemic, big kudos. And if you had a hard time, know that you’re not alone. 

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