Are Europeans doing enough to stay fit and healthy? Physical inactivity is a significant challenge to public health in Europe, and can lead to a range of health issues including diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. In turn, this puts a huge strain on Europe’s health systems, many of which are already struggling to cope with ageing populations and severe budget cuts.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that national governments promote physical activity and healthy diets to citizens. Yet many countries are falling short in this respect, and the WHO estimates that fully one quarter of European adults (and four-fifths of European adolescents) don’t get the recommended 150 minutes of moderately-intensive physical activity needed each week.
We had a comment from Peter arguing that Europeans desperately needed to find alternatives to the modern blight of “sedentary lifestyles”. But how much is physical inactivity costing Europe? And are people aware of the scale of the problem?
To get an answer, we contacted Mogens Kirkeby, President of the International Sport and Culture Association, to see what he had to say:
Next, we also put the same question to Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute. Ipsos MORI have been carrying out research on social norms, perception and physical activity. So, according to this research, do Europeans consider physical inactivity a big threat to public health?
Yes, they do. The interesting thing about people’s attitudes to physical inactivity, and particularly how it relates to their health, is that it’s not top of people’s minds. So, if you don’t prompt people with a list of responses, hardly anyone mentions physical inactivity as a big public health issue. But then when you show them a list of a range of potential health issues -from obesity, alcohol, poor diet, smoking, cancer, all the big issues – it actually comes much higher up people’s concerns, for both the country as a whole, and then when you ask about it as a threat to their own personal health, it actually comes top. So, 38% of people in the UK said that lack of exercise was the biggest threat to their own personal health, ahead of all other risk factors.
Finally, we also spoke to Jan Rijpstra, President of the Dutch Royal Society of Physical Education Teachers, and Mayor of the town of Noordwijk in South Holland. What would he have to say?
Is physical inactivity the biggest threat to our health today? How much is physical inactivity costing Europe? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!