2015 Fitness Trends: Social Data Knows you Skip Your Run on Thursdays

What have you pledged to do in the New Year? Are you trying to eat better? Maybe drop a few pounds? Be better about waking up early to hit the gym? You’re not alone.

As we head into 2016, we thought it would be interesting to look at a topic that is top of mind for many of you as we kick off 2016: fitness. Every day, our Research & Insights team combs through mountains of social data to find topics that are top of mind and the reactions, attitudes, and language used to discuss the world’s hottest trends. But one of the great features of social data is that it can sometimes go beyond just opinions to track real-world behavior patterns across its user base.

We were curious about what we could find in the social data generated in 2015 from a few of the biggest fitness apps in the world. With the rise of the “quantified-self” movement and connected devices, Twitter now connects to a wide collection of mobile applications that allow users to easily broadcast exercise details (distance, time) after a session has been completed. We decided to dive into this data to look for insights around exercise patterns and how seasonality, days of the week, big events, and holidays impact our fitness routines.

Methodology

Using the Spredfast Intelligence tool, we found over 7.5M Tweets generated from a collection of running apps (Nike+, MapMyRun, Endomondo, Strava, and Runkeeper) over the entirety of 2015.

By sifting through the data, we found some interesting insights while looking at distances run, days of the week, weather patterns, holidays, and even big pop culture moments.

Fitness Apps with the Most Social Activity

With a quick look, we can easily see which fitness apps generated the most Tweets last year. The Nike+ app, which enjoys a healthy install base across both iOS and Android platforms, takes a clear lead with 40% of Twitter activity in 2015, with Runkeeper coming in second around the 30% mark.

But social data can give us a lot more insight than just the top apps; fitness Tweets also include timestamps and information about distance and pace. What can we find by diving into these dimensions of the data?

Most Active Day of the Week in 2015

If you’re looking to have the road all to yourself on your morning jog, there’s one particular day of the week that you should target to lace up your running shoes: Thursday. Consistently throughout 2015, Thursday was the most popular day for fitness buffs to hit the snooze button and skip their exercise routine. Not surprisingly, the most popular day of the week for jogging and cycling was on the weekend, although much more activity happened on Saturday vs. Sunday.

But what about distance and pace? We narrowed our data set to grab only running data from October of 2015 and analyzed the distance and speed data from every fitness Tweet during the month to look for patterns.

We can see that Twitter users in October 2015 averaged just above 4 miles per run, but that distances aren’t consistent across every day of the week. When runners have more time on the weekends, we can see their run distance bump up to an average of 5.21 miles on Sunday and 4.67 miles on Saturday. If you are a retailer focused on a core demographic of passionate runners, Sunday may be the day where the sport is most top-of-mind for your audience.

We can also see that during the month of October, runners recorded their fastest average runs on Saturdays, while on Fridays, runners seeing their slowest average pace.

The Most Active Days of 2015

Let’s get away from averages, and turn to the top days of 2015 where people shared their fitness activity (and the days where they didn’t.) Can we find patterns and insights across our year’s worth of data?

Of the most active days of the year, it’s easy to see how seasonality and day-of-week impact our fitness levels.

  • Four out of the top five most active days were on a Saturday
  • Four out of the top five active days occurred in April, when the weather is turning to more outdoor-friendly conditions
  • Two of the top days were on or around a major fitness event (the Boston Marathon and London Marathon)

Least Active Fitness Days of the Year

Looking at the least active fitness days of the year, we see a few patterns emerge as well.

  • All five of the inactive days were on a Thursday
  • Two of the top least active days in the past year occurred on the day of a major weather event in the United States:
    • October 29th (Hurricane Patricia’s aftermath)
    • January 29th (The “Blizzard of 2015”)
  • It may be a coincidence, but one of the least active days of 2015 was also the day that Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiered to record audiences

Activity Through the Holidays

Do Twitter users use their holiday breaks to get fit, or do they take time off from lacing up their sneakers? Let’s find out.

Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving Day itself was not a popular day for athletes to get motivated: the US holiday was one of the lowest activity days of the year. However, all hope is not lost for Turkey Day; the day before Thanksgiving was more popular than average Wednesdays for amount of users Tweeting results for a run. This is not a new pattern – we saw the same activity levels when looking at 2014.

Christmas 2015

Christmas Day was a decently active day, especially compared to the results from Thanksgiving. Christmas Eve, however, was one of the lowest activity days of the year, presumably due to holiday travel and wrapping last-minute gifts.

As for people kicking off the New Year right – many waited a day to get moving. While January 1st saw a good amount of social fitness activity, January 2nd (which fell on a Saturday) saw more.

Kick Off Your New Year With Data

Keeping up with the social activity in your feed is a great way to stay on top of current events, breaking news, and updates from connections, but by stepping back and looking at large sets of social data, you can really begin to see the power that social data offers the world.

Make a resolution this year to ask what different aspects of data you can find value in, lace up your shoes, and get to work.

Chris Kerns's picture

Chris Kerns

@chriskerns
Chris Kerns has spent more than a decade defining digital strategy and is at the forefront of finding insights from digital data. He currently leads Analytics and Research at Spredfast. His research has appeared in The New York Times, Forbes, USA Today and AdWeek, among other publications.