Playing right into the strengths of run specialty, apparently the hard-to-define Generation Z’s behaviors and habits vary from other generations, but they also have different motivators, barriers and interests when it comes to staying active. A key part of that is the desire for community in the recreational pursuits. In other words, they like to run and exercise with other people.

Those are the key takeaways from the recently released “Year In Sport: The Trend Report” from Strava, the digital community for active people with more than 120 million athletes, that highlights the global trends among active people across generations. 

As part of the report, Strava conducted a global survey of 6990 active people. The findings, coupled with activity data from Strava in 2023, give new and unique insights into the trends shaping the world of exercise and exploration and tease what we might expect to see this year.

Among the highlights:

  • Across generations, Strava athletes say their number one reason for exercising with others is social connection. Over half of Strava athletes say they’re most motivated by friends or family members who exercise – and 77 percent of Gen Z athletes say they feel more connected to others when seeing their friends or family’s activities on Strava. At the bottom of the list of motivators? Celebrities and influencers – even for Gen Z and Millennials.
  • Gen Z is also the most social, being 29 percent more likely than Millennials to work out with another person at least some of the time. This may be due in part to healthy competition, as Gen Z are 31 percent less likely to exercise primarily for their health than their Millennial or Gen X counterparts, but they are the most likely to exercise in the pursuit of athletic performance.
  • When it comes to barriers to exercise and keeping up a consistent routine, over two-thirds of athletes across generations cited a lack of time due to work demands as a top hurdle. Even so, work demands didn’t stop Gen Z from smashing their fitness goals – 39 percent of Gen Z Strava athletes started a new job and 30 percent relocated in 2023 but they were 32 percent more likely than other generations to say they’re fitter than last year.

“We know that Gen Z behaviors reflect their values and the influence of living in an increasingly digital world, which, for this group, means they are ultimately centered around activism, community, and connection,” explains Zipporah Allen, chief business officer at Strava. “Over the past year, we’ve seen Gen Z as the primary source of community growth through new clubs on Strava. They’ve also contributed to the increase in sports like running, despite having the most barriers to staying consistent. This shows exercise will be a central value for this generation, which is why they’re already turning to Strava as the key platform to stay motivated and connected.”

While connection rose to the top globally, there are other key motivators and barriers identified among active people:

  • Pets get us out the door: 76 percent of Strava athletes with pets say their furry companions help get them out the door when they wouldn’t go otherwise – and that exercising with their pet is more fun.
  • Safety and household responsibilities can be barriers to exercise: Men on Strava are 13 percent more likely than women to cite household responsibilities as an obstacle. Women are nine percent more likely than men to cite a lack of safe places to exercise.
  • Climate change is impacting our exercise habits: 75 percent of athletes on Strava said extreme heat affected their exercise plans in 2023 – and poor air quality affected 27 percent.
  • Playlists are a trusted workout partner, but might lack variety: 43 percent of Gen X athletes on Strava say they’ve been listening to the same workout music for years.

To view the full report and the most popular places to run, hike and bike: