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Eurobarometer survey reveals high level of physical inactivity in Europe

03 April 2014

The 3rd edition of the Eurobarometer survey on sports and physical activity in the European Union points to lack of uptake in message of physical activity for individual health and well-being.

The Eurobarometer survey, which follows on from comparable surveys conducted in 2002 and 2009, aims atcontributing to providing some of the data to support the developing policy framework for promoting sport and physical activity. The survey was launched and coordinated by the 'Sport Unit' within Directorate-General for Education and Culture and the Directorate-General for Communication.

In its conclusions, the report finds that “despite the growing importance attached to the promotion of physical activity in EU Member States, the previous Eurobarometer survey in 2009 identified “alarmingly high” rates of physical inactivity in the EU, and found that the vast majority of Europeans (60%) never exercise or play sport. In the 2013 survey, with 59%, this proportion of citizens remains unacceptably high. The survey finds that there is a slight increase from the 2009 figure for those who do not exercise or play sport at all (i.e. from 39% to 42%). European citizens' sedentary behaviour has not improved in the last decade

The reports suggests that “such findings might indicate that the message about the importance of sport and physical activity for an individual's health and wellbeing has not yet got through to significant segments of the EU population”. The findings however, show large differences among Member States.

The survey also made it clear that most sport or physical activity takes place in informal settings – in parks and outdoors, at home, or on the journey between home and school, work or shops, as well as at work or at school or university. The report concludes that “this suggests that such opportunities to engage in physical activity should be promoted alongside the practice of sport and physical activity in organised settings”. The percentage of respondents who said they engage in physical activity on the journey between home and school, work or shops has dropped from 31% in 2009 to 25% in 2013.

There are more mixed views as to whether local authorities do enough to provide their citizens with opportunities to be physically active26: 39% agree that they do not do enough, while 52% disagree.

Polis is working on the link between active modes of transport and health benefits.Polis is currently in the process of updating its position paper on securing the health benefits of transport. Furthermore, building on Polis’ partaking in the European- Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European platform (PEP-UNECE), there is a strong case for reinforcing the health dimension of urban transport and to further explore the opportunities linked to active modes of transport, notably to promote physical activity.

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For more information, please contact Florinda Boschetti