According to a new survey on sport and physical activity by Eurobarometer, Northern Europe is more physically active than the South and East.
The survey reveals that 59% of EU citizens never or seldom exercise, or play sport, while 41% do so at least once a week. The most active citizens, who exercise or play sport at least once a week, are the Swedes (70%), followed by the Danes (68%) and the Finns (66%).
Most respondents who never exercise or play sport can be found in Bulgaria (78%), Malta (75%) and Portugal (64%).
Lack of physical activity can lead to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and stroke, diabetes, too much bad cholesterol and obesity. A new study published in France has shown that obesity is rapisly becoming a European epidemic.
Filippo Fossati, European chairman of the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA), told EURACTIV that the new data is a wake-up call.
“We need to establish a broad, inclusive appeal and approach. We must include, promote and support activities from walking and transport cycling to recreational sport and physical activity and we need all relevant sectors to take ownership of this challenge,” Fossati said.
The ISCA stressed that though the Commission has few competences within the area of health, the EU can play an important role when it comes to promotion of health-enhancing physical activity. When the gap between the top five countries and the average in the EU is roughly 20%, with a population of 500 million Europeans, closing that gap would mean 100 million more physically active Europeans.
The Eurobarometer survey added that local authorities, in particular, could do more to encourage citizens to be physically active.
Approximately four million people in Europe and 1.5 million people in the EU die of cardiovascular disease each year, according to the European Heart Network (EHN) and the European Society for Cardiology (ESC). The main forms of heart disease are coronary heart disease and stroke.
To reduce the number of deaths from heart disease, the European state members have agreed to tackle the underlying health determinants behind cardiovascular health in its 2014-2020 health programme.
A key element in fighting cardiovascular disease is to address the underlying health determinants, including bad cholesterol, tobacco use, obesity, diet, physical activity and high blood pressure.
- 3-4 Apr.: EU summit on chronic diseases in Brussels
- Eurobarometer: Sport and Physical Activity