Coronavirus (COVID-19) effect on sports participation - Statistics & Facts

As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many countries were forced to go into lockdown and close public services to stem the flow of the disease. Some nations even established curfews alongside general social distancing guidelines. Since gyms and health clubs have been closed in most countries during the lockdown and public gatherings have been on hold, participation in sports has become very limited, on a private as well as a professional level.

Changing exercise habits

When it comes to private exercise habits, participation rates decreased as a result of the limitations. In the United States, 27 percent of survey respondents stated that they exercised less often than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic. In another survey, approximately 20 percent of respondents stated that, once restrictions were lifted, one of the first things they wanted do was go to the gym again. However, the vast majority, regardless of ethnicity, were very unlikely to return to a gym or fitness center while the pandemic was still going on. As an alternative, while exercising at home during periods of lockdown, many have turned to online gyms and fitness classes with instructors via webcams. In China, for example, over 60 percent of gym members had access to online fitness courses during the pandemic. The outlook in India was similar, as 53 percent of men and 65 percent of gym members were able to make use on online fitness courses.

Sports content consumption

The consumption of sports content on TV or online has also changed somewhat during the pandemic. In the United States, over a third of non-sports fans stated that they would watch more sporting events on TV once the pandemic ended. In the United Kingdom, however, the tendencies of watching live soccer have slightly decreased overall from before to during the pandemic, both in terms of time spent watching soccer on TV and time spent watching games online.

Were the right decisions made?

Allthough it's an often debated topic, the overall consensus tends towards agreement with canceling or postponing major sporting events during these pandemic times. In the United States, roughly two thirds of people agreed with professional sports leagues suspending their seasons. Conversely, only a third of people thought that sports leagues were overreacting with such measures. Public opinion stretches across all age groups, with the majority agreeing that sports organizations should wait until the pandemic is contained before resuming sporting events. The same general attitude on how to gauge the situation is reflected in other countries such as Great Britain, where over half of respondents in March 2020 believed that all major sporting events should be cancelled or postponed. In France, the majority of respondents believed that the industry had got the decisions just right when it came to cancelling sporting events. With the current lack of ticket sales and various other limitations within sports, industry leaders predict that it will take until at least 2022 for the sports industry to recover.


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