Brussels, 28 August 2013
Getting people out of their chairs: new initiative to promote physical activity in Europe
The European Commission adopted today an initiative on health-enhancing physical activity which is the first ever proposal for a Council Recommendation on sport. Sport and physical activity help people to stay physically and mentally fit by combating excessive weight and obesity and preventing related health conditions.
Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner responsible for sport said: "Much more can be done through our policies to encourage people to get out of their chairs. This initative is an important milestone in the Commission's efforts to promote health-enhancing physical activity in the EU. We propose to Member States to take measures across all those policy sectors that can enable citizens' to be or to become physically active. One key element of our proposal is to help Member States to trace developments and identify trends regarding their national efforts to promote sport and physical activity. By acting together with the Member States we will reduce the significant costs arising from by the lack of physical activity in Europe ".
Over the past years, the EU has been promoting physical activity through its policies and financial instruments and thereby supported on-going efforts in the Member States. Despite these efforts the rates of physical inactivity in the EU remain alarmingly high, with two thirds of Europeans never or seldom exercising or playing sport.
The Council will start discussing the proposed recommendation as of September and could possibly adopt it in 2013. EU support for the implementation of the measures is proposed to come from Erasmus+, due to start in 2014.
The initiative follows a call from the Council in 2012 inviting the Commission to present a proposal for a Council Recommendation promoting a cross-sectoral approach to health-enhancing physical activity based on the 2008 EU Physical Activity Guidelines.
The many benefits of physical activity and exercise throughout people's lives, are well documented, as are the problems caused by a lack of physical activity, including premature mortality, rising overweight and obesity levels, breast and colon cancers, diabetes and ischaemic heart disease. Available evidence shows that the health problems imply significant economic costs, especially in view of Europe's rapidly ageing societies.
The Commission's 2011 Communication on sport affirms that physical activity is one of the most important health determinants in modern society. It invites the Commission and the Member States to implement the EU Physical Activity Guidelines and continue progress toward the establishment of national guidelines. These guidelines reiterate WHO Recommendations on the minimum level of physical activity, emphasise the importance of a cross-sectoral approach, and provide 41 concrete guidelines for action. The Council in its conclusions on health-enhancing physical activity of November 2012 calls on the Commission to present a proposal for a Council Recommendation, including a light monitoring framework. Stakeholders and experts consulted in the preparatory phase have strongly supported this initiative.
The promotion of health-enhancing physical activity depends on Member States. Many public authorities have stepped up their efforts in this field. Likewise, the EU has addressed the issue through policies and financial support in the field of sport and health and by using the relevant EU level structures for policy coordination, in particular the Expert Group on Sport, Health and Participation, set up under the EU Work Plan for Sport, and the High-Level Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity, set up in the framework of the Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues (2007-2013).
The new initiative builds on these on-going efforts. It invites Member States to develop a national strategy and a corresponding action plan for promoting health-enhancing physical activity across sectors, reflecting the EU Physical Activity Guidelines and to monitor physical activity levels and the implementation of policies. The Commission is invited to assist Member States in their efforts to effectively promote health-enhancing physical activity by providing support for the establishment of the monitoring framework and to regularly report on progress in implementing the Recommendation.
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