File photo: Hundreds of would be 2020 Comrades Marathon runners took to the streets in Durban running what is called a virtual race on Sunday morning the 14 June 2020. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)
File photo: Hundreds of would be 2020 Comrades Marathon runners took to the streets in Durban running what is called a virtual race on Sunday morning the 14 June 2020. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)

SA no exception as new research reveals running boom during Covid-19 pandemic

By Michael Sherman Time of article published Jun 4, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - A new study has revealed that road running is one of the fastest growing sports in the world during the Covid-19 pandemic, and South Africa is part of that trend.

With strict government lockdowns enforced since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, running has proved to be one of the cheapest, and most popular, forms of exercise.

With South Africa enforcing one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, once restrictions were eased - hordes of runners took to the streets in the 6am to 9am exercise window in May last year. A year on from then, with little limitations on exercising outside - the number of active runners in South Africa is still on the rise.

Nielson Sports – the official research and intelligence supplier to World Athletics – has highlighted how runners have increased their participation and the health benefits they gain from it.

Across 10 surveyed countries, four in 10 people consider themselves to be runners and 30 per cent of those run at least once a week. Distinct from many other participation sports, recreational running has an equal participation split. Of all runners, 53 percent are men and 47 percent are women.

More than a fifth of all runners reveal that they run more often than they did previously as a result of Covid-19 and most in that group say they will continue to run more often once the pandemic is over.

Among the many benefits of running is the chance to experience the ‘runner’s high’. “It begins with this peace of mind and then a greater ease of movement, a sense of power and confidence, optimism and hope, and you will often hear runners describe feeling loving and connected to everyone and everything,” explained Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist, educator and author of The Joy of Movement, during a recent World Athletics 'Run Anywhere' Webinar in collaboration with Mass Participation World.

The survey reflects this, with three quarters of all runners agreeing that ‘running is good for my mind as well as my body’.

Those aged 25 to 34 are most likely to be passionate about running, with 50 percent agreeing that it is a part of who they are. Runners are more likely to consider themselves to be warm and friendly, family oriented, optimistic and passionate, showing greater confidence to associate themselves with positive personality characteristics.

For current runners, the biggest factors in the decision to run are health reasons, the ability to go at your own pace and not needing much equipment.

African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Michael Sherman

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