Five lasting physical activity trends kick-started by COVID-19
The URL has been copied
The URL has been copied
random dude from hamburg does pushups like a boss
According to the world's seven Global Active Cities.
  1. Better out than in

Green spaces have been wildly appreciated during the past two months, with Google data showing in some European countries people have been spending up to 80% more time in parks, beaches and public gardens.

“Hamburg is a very active city,” said Hamburg Senator Andy Grote, “which holds true in this crisis as well. The citizens of Hamburg keep fit. They walk, stroll, jog and cycle. Parks are still open and people are invited to exercise there, keeping the prescribed distance of course. Many people use these permitted forms of exercise to maintain their physical activity.”

Conscious of the significant role of sports for the well-being of the people, the city recently opened all outdoor sport facilities for activities where it is possible to keep a safe distance between people.

In Lillehammer, Norway, there has been an increase in the number of people cross-country skiing, running, and hiking. “People have been very careful,” said Bengt Fjeldbraaten, Global Active City Special adviser for Lillehammer. “Now I am seeing more people going out. Individual sports have gone up. People have more practice running in the woods alone.”

This trend will likely continue as lockdown ends, since outdoor exercise poses fewer risks than indoor sport. For some sports providers, it is not possible to provide sufficient indoor space per person to meet safety recommendations. So, where possible, sports activities will be moved outside.

  1. Active families

With the closure of schools, team sports and childcare facilities, the only way for families to do sport has been to bring the generations together. “Professional sport stopped – there were no games or trainings,” said Dejan Crnek, Deputy Mayor of Ljubljana. “On the other hand, sports for all have been increasing. People do cycling, hiking, yoga in nature, and the family get together in a way they didn’t do before.”

With team training sessions and spectator matches unlikely to take place for the foreseeable future, and many countries not ready to reopen schools, family sports will stay firmly in focus. “I hope there will be a long-term impact on family activity,” said Nicky Yates, Physical Activity and Sport Development Manager for Liverpool City Council. “Because we’re all at home together, we are seeing families doing activities they might not have done, and for practical reasons, because usually everyone’s at work or school.”

  1. Mainstreaming home workouts

Even daily activities have begun to be treated as opportunities for sport – 10 minutes lifting bags of sugar while cooking pasta, or planking while peeling potatoes – as seen in the Lausanne Sports Service social media feed #lausannehomechallenge. “For the Lausanne Home Challenge, we asked sports clubs to make videos of sports challenges in their apartments,” explained Patrice Iseli, head of Lausanne’s sport department. “It was to do something nice for the people, and to keep in touch with our 300 sports clubs, who had no contact with their facilities.”

“Five years ago, home activity was perceived as something for people who couldn’t leave the house,” said Ms Yates.

Now the home has become the gym - it’s become people’s space to be active. I do think that will last.

In Richmond, British Columbia, 24,000 visits were made to online fitness classes in the first three weeks of lockdown. The city created a series of resources to support physical activity, social connectedness and wellness, and in the first ten days had over 800 visits and over 1,000 page views. There has been a 400% increase in social media engagement and nearly 1,200 people followed the city’s new Instagram profile within a few weeks of its launch. Elizabeth Ayers, Director of Recreation and Sport Services, said: “We offer resources on physical, mental and social wellness - how can a parent teach physical literacy skills, how can seniors stay active in their homes in a safe way?”

  1. Inclusive sport

Historically many people have been excluded from sports for a variety of reasons – such as age, chronic health conditions, disability, or affordability. Many of these people are at greater risk from Covid-19, so Global Active Cities are taking special care to engage them in physical activity during and after the lockdown.

In Buenos Aires, during the quarantine nearly 2,000 homeless people were housed in public sports facilities and the city’s Olympic Park, and given the opportunity to do socially-distanced sports. “People couldn’t stay homeless in the street,” explained Gustavo Gesualdo, Secretary of Citizen Development for the City of Buenos Aires. “We had to provide them with not only a place to sleep, but to stay all day.” The city authority is also providing extra funding to neighbourhood clubs, who make sports possible at low cost.

In Liverpool, a local version of Sport England’s national campaign – “We are Undefeatable” will help people from vulnerable groups continue to be active after the lockdown has ended. Ms Yates said:

It’s made us think about new ways and new places to be active but it’s also an important reminder that people with additional barriers need tailored support.

  1. Free activities

Many Global Active Cities are planning free, non-competitive events for residents as possibilities open up, often working with the local voluntary sector. People have lost income because of Covid-19, so their personal resources are limited, and cities want to maximise the population’s new-found appetite for sport.

A Hamburg Active City Summer programme will offer a wide variety of outdoor sports free of charge for local people. “We want to promote sport in the city and motivate people to be active,” explained Mr Grote.

Mr Iseli said that Lausanne is working with partners towards creating free activities such as regular running events open to all. “We would like to be able to offer Zumba or yoga in the park and the town, free of charge. We want to support and develop that, with the monitoring of the Global Active City.”

Find out more about the Global Active City programme.

Rachel Beacher is a freelance physical activity writer and the co-founder of Active Parents Active Kids, a new non-profit association to promote families being active together. Follow @makeactivekids on Twitter.


United States
North America
All sports
Sustainable Development Goals
3 – Good health and well-being
Target Group
All target groups

Related Articles

women play basketball

Basketball Mtaani: Empowering Kenyan Women Through Sports and Mentorship

sportanddev.org Community
The URL has been copied
young girls perform karate kicks

Women's Sports Foundation Report Examines Impact on Girls' Mental Health

Beyond Sport Communications
The URL has been copied
World Table Tennis Day 2024 epicenter celebration in Leipzig, Germany

Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion around ONE table: Wrapping up World Table Tennis Day 2024

Pei-Ching Ko
The URL has been copied
Inspire Inclusion

Inspiring inclusion: Celebrating International Women's Day in rural Andhra Pradesh through sports

Kailas Khanna K R
The URL has been copied