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SportsShoes surveyed 4904 runners, including treadmill (gym) runners, road runners and off-road (trail) runners, on the physical and mental benefits of running.

THE RESULTS

The biggest motivation to exercise

Trail runners identified increasing overall wellbeing as their biggest motivation for running (29%), whereas both road runners (36%) and treadmill runners (34%) saw improving overall fitness as their biggest motivation.

Trail runners were 28% more likely to identify wellbeing as a key motivation over road runners and 68% more likely to cite wellbeing as a priority over treadmill runners.

The most important physical benefit of exercise

Whilst cardiovascular fitness was a key physical priority for runners in all three categories, trail runners were more likely to reference releasing endorphins (18%) and improving overall brain function (10%) as a physical benefit than the other 2 categories. This demonstrates that trail runners place as much emphasis on mental health as physical health.

The biggest barrier to exercise

The most common barrier to running in all categories was being ‘time-poor’.

Tellingly, nearly a third (29%) of trail runners said there were no barriers at all to running whereas gym goers found the most barriers to exercise, choosing options such as being ‘too tired’ and having ‘a lack of motivation’ as reasons not to exercise. Of the many barriers to running, trail running always scored the lowest and treadmill runners always scored the highest, suggesting that it is easier to stick at trail running once you get started.

Both road and off-road runners suffer the same weather yet road runners were more likely to blame it as a reason not to run. The same amount of treadmill runners as trail runners offered bad weather as their biggest barrier to exercise!

Mental focus during exercise

The majority of all treadmill runners (35%) said they think about the music they were tuned into whilst running whereas the majority of trail runners (34%) said they think about the surroundings they are looking at whilst running. Showing that each running discipline offers two very different sensory experiences.

We were surprised to see a high number of trail runners ticked the ‘other’ box, wanting to share their personal thoughts whilst running and lauding the mindful headspace that running gives you. Includes ‘meditation in movement’, ‘family’, ‘relationships’ and ‘conversations’, ‘everything and anything, running is completely liberating.’

We asked respondents to rank, on a scale of 1-10, how much they thought exercise helped to combat negative emotions, where 0 meant that ‘exercise had no impact on their state of mind’ and 10 meant that ‘exercise was a form of therapy’.

The majority of trail runners (41%) chose 10, with 88% of trail runners choosing to score it very highly - between 8 and 10.

We asked if they were able to identify the most common unpleasant emotion that exercise helps to alleviate.

Of all the suggested negative emotions, more than half (56%) of all runners we surveyed cited ‘stress’ as the most common emotion that exercise helps to alleviate. ‘Feeling low’ also scored highly over all categories (20%).

Note:

SportsShoes.com surveyed 4904 runners via Typeform, including off-road (trail) runners, road runners and treadmill (gym) runners. The results offer a representational UK sample of the population, with 3027 of respondents being off-road (trail) runners, 1571 road runners and 306 treadmill (gym) runners.