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?

bobby-duffyYes, 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!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Ben Webb


52 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Costin Halaicu

    Degradation of world climate, pollution, refusal by important world powers to reduce carbon emissions – those are definitely higher threats to our health today. While China, India and the US will refuse to accept responsibility according to the Kyoto protocol criteria, I don’t think we can point to anything else as “the biggest threat”. That is not to say we should downplay the importance of the lack of physical activity.

    • Prince du Sang

      Yes, I agree.

  2. Vinko Rajic

    YES , inactivity with fat food . I know many people that don’t move more than 200 meter on one day .

    • Ericbanner

      Vinko,I know people who dont move 2 meters a day ,never mind 200 :)

  3. Jaime Oliveira

    Not sure if the “biggest” threat – but spending 9+ hours in an office, seated on a desk, in front of a computer, stressed to meet tight deadlines doesn’t sound very healthy…

  4. Kurt Van Raemdonck

    It’s a threat we all are aware of
    and nevertheless it seems so difficult to encourage people to do something about it …

  5. Dionìs Koçi

    Yes, but along with the carelessness about food,.. or wait a sec., maybe netter saying along with carelessness in general.

  6. Ericbanner

    People are ,as a species inherantly lazy.This is blatantly and patently obvious, I think people should be left to get fatter and less healthy if they wish,people should not be preached at .
    Let them get fat,let them die young if they wish,and lets not be too critical of those who through their own lack of motivation are responsible in a small way for reducing the population.
    What should happen without a doubt is that those who choose a life of inactivity should not expect help from the state to sort themselves out by way of Gastric bands,bariatric surgery or tax payer funded help.
    I reLly dont mind you getting fat,but dont ask me to help you to sort out your life choices.

  7. Joseph Bartolo

    Totally Ban Monsanto.and GMO’s. Provide Universal Housing and Health for Everyone plus Education and Time to spend with Family, making sure that all families and single person live decently throughout the EU, or face the consequences of a collapes society. Better everyone is treatd with respect and dignity rather the opposite.

  8. Egon Witte

    Poor, stupid and inactive..That is the danger..in that line too..
    No money takes the chances for developing something, stupidity does not let you find chances and inactivity destroys all together..the only house we live in..our body..

  9. Tarquin Farquhar

    Is the phrase ‘physical activity’ an oxymoron?

  10. Nando Aidos

    Are the cities doing enough to allow people to stay fit?
    Are jobs facilitating it?
    Are work schedules conducive to staying fit?

  11. Carla Venâncio

    Not really, since in Portugal the working hours and timetravel time from home to work, in total 13hours, the remaining hours are to sleep, to be with our family, to shop, to Cook. I don’t understand how can tou say portugueses havê to much time off. We havê a good Weather but the ones working don’t havê time to apreciate it.

  12. Myron Kanakis

    … the e.u destroyed the 8 hour work for the people.If people had 8 hours to spend with their families ,or to dedicate it for themselves the rates would be much better…But if somenbody needs to work like 15 hours a day,how he will be active?

  13. Mathew Sandoval

    Fitness has always been valued in European society. Who would agree that contemporary economics leads to greater sedentary behaviour? Has this always been the case, or is the public health challenge a growing concern?

  14. nando

    The cost of inactivity is often created by companies that put the burden of exercise on society and the employee. Yet these companies are the primary beneficiaries of an employee who exercises.
    So let these companies pay for this cost and you will see “workout time” become part of employment rules! And the problem gets solved.
    However, there are companies who have “seen the light” and have built gyms and pools and encouraged employees to exercise.

  15. Nando Aidos

    The cost of inactivity is often created by companies that put the burden of exercise on society and the employee. Yet these companies are the primary beneficiaries of an employee who exercises.
    So let these companies pay for this cost and you will see “workout time” become part of employment rules! And the problem gets solved.
    However, there are companies who have “seen the light” and have built gyms and pools and encouraged employees to exercise.

  16. Alexandre Caldeira

    Portuguese works 40hours a week. Wages of 500eur. Rent houses for 400. Transport tickets 50 60 euros. .buying bio products seems to be out of budget…and going to a gym or having free time to workout outside . . A truth mirage

  17. Barbara Galea-Haji

    It is one challenge. The other two are (dis-)stress and hectic in daily life and unhealthy eating habits.

  18. André Snellman

    yes, as well as alcohol, drugs, porn, feminism, multi-culti and everything that (((they))) impose on our society. -_-
    …bring back national socialism for a new healthy society!

  19. Stefania Portici

    ” corpo sano , mente sana ” ll problema più grande no, l’inattività fisica in genere è dovuta all’apatia e la UE si è data molto da fare in questi anni a rendere apatiche le persone .

    “Healthy body, healthy mind” the biggest problem no, physical inactivity is usually due to apathy and the EU has already done much in recent years to make people apathetic.

  20. Cătă Nan

    NO. The biggest one is mental inactivity. And it seems that more and more people are doing it

  21. Cătă Nan

    NO. The biggest one is mental inactivity. And it seems that more and more people are doing it

  22. Cătă Nan

    NO. The biggest one is mental inactivity. And it seems that more and more people are doing it

  23. Luigi Monteferrante

    In Italy, at least, it seems more and more older people are doing sports, exercising, going to gyms, jogging than ever before; it might be the younger generations, especially kids, who instead of running around parks are staring at their tablets, smartphones and TV screens. More should be done for them – and again, this is what I see in Italy. For the rest of us, an ad campaign promoting sports and related could be a good investment for all.

  24. Ivan Burrows

    Didn’t you know you are not allowed to criticise people for being over weight any more, its called ‘body shaming’ ?

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