Veerle De Bosscher: 'We assume that the coronavirus measures mainly affect the social athletes'

Are you a screen athlete, nature athlete or living room athlete?

During the coronavirus crisis, are we doing more or less sport than previously? On the one hand, there’s a ban on gatherings, which of course rules out team sports. On the other hand, people have never been so encouraged by the authorities to exercise. Researchers from VUB, UGent and KU Leuven have put together a questionnaire to measure our sporting habits in times of coronavirus. β€œWe want to investigate what’s going on. Have people stopped exercising, because they’re no longer allowed to play football or go swimming or cycling in groups, or are they walking more, or have they bought a treadmill online and begun exercising at home? Is a new kind of athlete emerging? We’re asking people to fill in the questionnaire and share it as much as they can,” says Veerle De Bosscher, professor in sport management at VUB.

Everything is closed, gatherings are banned. The swimming pool is shut, so is the gym, the football club, the sports hall, and cycling in groups is no longer allowed. How are people exercising now? Three professors in sports policy at VUB, UGent and KU Leuven are asking people in Flanders and Brussels to tell them about their new movement habits.

The researchers are also asking what has happened to people for whom sport was primarily a social activity. β€œWe assume that the coronavirus measures mainly affect the social athletes,” says Professor De Bosscher. β€œHow are they coping, we’re wondering.”

And is the lockdown also encouraging the non-athlete to be more active? β€œThe coronavirus measures can also be an opportunity to get non-sporty people to move and even to attract a new target group,” says Professor Annick Willem (UGent). β€œSports clubs and federations have never been so active in promoting barrier-free sport via social media and online platforms.”

After three weeks of lockdown, the researchers have already identified five types of corona athlete: β€œThe screen athlete works out at home and is led by a screen, such as the Wii. The digital competition athlete uses online applications and exercises in a virtual space. The living room athlete is active in their own home, without a screen. The nature athlete goes outside as much as possible and enjoys running, cycling and walking. The sport refuser is not interested in sport,” says Professor Jeroen Scheerder (KU Leuven).

The survey: