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Strava: challenge yourself to greater heights in physical activity/cycling and running
  1. Liam Richard West
  1. Correspondence to Dr Liam Richard West, National Health Service, Oxford University Hospitals, John Racliffe, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK; liamwestsem{at}hotmail.co.uk

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Category

Fitness.

Platform

iOS (iPhone 4 and above), Android (V. 2.3.3 and above), Google Glass and over 50 GPS devices (eg, Garmin) that then upload date onto the Strava website.

Cost

Free for the standard app, but the user can choose to pay £4.49/month or £44.99/year for the premium version that offers extended functionality.

About the app

Strava has been created for cyclists and runners to track their activities and offer analysis on their performance. It maps the route taken and tracks the pace achieved. Once a route is completed this data is uploaded onto the app and website with subsequent analysis of the activity; calories burned, average speed, maximum speed, speed over certain distances, and heart rate (if a compatible monitor was used during activity).

The reason that Strava has become so popular is its emphasis on competition. Users are able to analyse their speed or time taken (ie, activity scores) to complete a route or a self-determined segment of the route. A leader board is created and individual users can challenge previous activity scores within the route or segments in an attempt to attain a personal best (PB). Strava itself also regularly posts challenges, such as time to complete certain routes or time taken to climb hill segments. There is also a large social emphasis within the Strava app—you can follow your friends’ activities and compare performances.

The premium version of Strava allows users to customise leader boards by age and weight to create a more even comparison to one's own activity scores. More advanced analysis is available, including a ‘Suffer Score’ that gives a breakdown of just how much users punished themselves during workouts based on heart rate data. It also allows analysis of real time segment updates during activity. The premium version also provides a personal heat map that demonstrates your most popular routes and the also gives the opportunity to download GPX files which means you can even explore routes created by other Strava users.

Use in clinical practice

The Strava mobile app can be used to support individuals in being active and achieve better fitness, but is not well suited to first engagements with physical activity. It will provide much more benefit for those who are already engaged in cycling or running and want social competition with friends or motivation to adhere to a proposed activity.1 ,2 It is very good in tracking distances covered with subsequent relevant analysis, and therefore could also be used for athletes who have not had this input previously but are looking to increase the specificity of their training whether it be for performance or injury prevention.3 Similarly it could be used to help with rehabilitation from injury and return to fitness. The app enables users to plan a graduated increase in exercise intensities via increasing distances, attempting faster segments or tackling routes with increasing elevation.

Pros

  • Free.

  • Intuitive design and easy to set up.

  • Competitive motivation.

  • Challenges encourage users to push harder when exercising alone.

  • Extensive analysis of activities.

  • Integration of social networks.

Cons

  • One may forget what a leisurely bike ride or jog used to feel due to the increasingly competitive atmosphere created by the Strava app.

  • Owing to the competitive nature instilled in users of the app, risk-taking behaviours may be increased that could lead to musculoskeletal injury or road traffic collisions.

  • Thieves have been known to use Strava in order to locate where a bike is locked up for work or the users home address through the ability to see routes. (In an attempt to nullify this threat, Strava have introduced a privacy setting that will hide variable diameters of information around a location of your choosing. This can only be carried out via the website).

  • It is hard to hide your data if you want anything to be anonymous. Only a few of these options are available on the app and most rely on visiting Strava's website.

References

View Abstract

Footnotes

  • Twitter Follow Liam West at @Liam_West

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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