Although some outdoor sports, like running, can still be taken advantage of during the pandemic, meet-up groups, competitions and marathons have all been put on hold —  unless they happen to be virtual, of course. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, esports continues to gain popularity as more people head online to actively participate in physical games and activities they can’t otherwise join and reap the benefits of maintained health and socialization. 

Running is one such sports activity thriving in the United States, thanks to the many online opportunities to join leagues and participate in virtual marathons. In many ways, esports has a handful of benefits for runners who wish to keep up their training and stamina in a quarantined world.  


Stay Active in Training and Competing

According to the University of Wyoming, studies have shown that esports has many of the same benefits as grass sports. While running can be a largely solo activity, esports offers players opportunities to join a virtual league or competition. Overall, it can motivate them to train and stay active, which will ultimately benefit them as they participate in online running competitions.

Training produces countless benefits that can help players reach a higher level — both physically and mentally. Three major adaptations include improved endurance, an increased ability to cope with stress, and better cognitive function. As runners incorporate running into their daily routines, mental and physical endurance develops from increasing their energy. The increase in both the muscles and the brain from training as a runner gives players a major advantage during tournament play when they need to raise the bar both physically and mentally for an extended period of time.


Collaborate in Running Leagues

Esports also offer the opportunity to collaborate in leagues and compete in marathons with other runners. In leagues, the ability to work as part of a team is crucial to success, but it provides runners an opportunity to work in more team-based environments. Most esports are played as a team, meaning that every game requires players to work together with their teammates to accomplish that shared goal. Seeing as this isn’t the norm for most individual runners, it gives them pro-social experiences, especially in the depths of quarantine. 

For many esports players, online gaming is liberating and affords opportunities to compete in sports they may not otherwise participate in. While gaming could be an isolating pastime, it becomes a social experience for runners when they join a league, marathon or competition. It’s a way for solo runners, in particular, to feel like they are part of a community, especially during the pandemic.


Running is More Accessible Than Ever

Running is becoming more accessible than ever, thanks to esports. People can sign up to compete in the marathons they want to join without any risks. They can often participate anonymously or with an avatar, affording them the luxury of confidentiality if they wish. The opportunity to improve upon their running scores and enhance their stamina through continued training inside and outside of the house affords more opportunities for runners in general. While esports can focus more on inclusion, games that incorporate opportunities for disabled athletes to participate in the future can introduce a new set of abilities and skills to them that weren’t previously available to this group. 

Esports is allowing its users to participate in sports and other physical activities in easier and fluid ways, spurring interest in new games and in health, wellness and improved mental capabilities. As the esports sector develops, it will be exciting to see how it further influences the popularity of sports like running.