The World Health Organisation's regional office for Europe has published two reports highlighting evidence of how physical activity and sports improve people's physical and mental health. However, participation in sports and other physical activities "is influenced by the built, natural and social environments in which people live," states one report, urging urban planners to take this evidence into account when deciding on city structures.
"Physical activity and health in Europe: evidence for action" presents the facts on health and physical activity linkage, showcases examples of different initiatives and calls for concerted action across the WHO European Region.
"Promoting physical activity and active living in urban environments: the role of local governments. The solid facts." describes how city organisation, the urban environment and access to natural environment can either "encourage or hinder active living". It therefore emphasises the role of local governments in creating environments that provide people with enough opportunities to be physically active. The report also presents some suggestions for this purpose for policy and practice at local level.
Europeans increasingly live sedentary lives, but physical inactivity is one of the main determinants in the growing obesity epidemic in Europe. The Commission's White paper on Sports For All, set to be published in June 2007, will aim to empower citizens to do more sports and physical activity.