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European Commission


Brussels, 24 March 2014

Eurobarometer on Sport and Physical Activity

As well as highlighting which Member States' citizens engage the most in sport and physical activity, the new survey emphasises socio-demographic results and the context in which people exercise. It also reveals how people perceive the opportunities for sport and physical activity in their areas and how much time they spend on voluntary activity linked to sport. The survey shows large differences among Member States. It follows previous largely comparable surveys carried out in 2002 and 2009.

What are the frequency and levels of engagement in sport and other physical activity?

42% of Europeans never exercise or play sport

The number of people saying they never exercise or play sport has increased by three percentage points since the 2009 survey (from 39% to 42%). A similar proportion exercise or play sport at least once a week (41%, an increase of one percentage point from the previous survey).

48% engage in other physical activity, for recreational or non-sport-related reasons, such as cycling from one place to another, dancing or gardening at least once a week, while 30% never do this kind of activity at all.

Overall, men in the EU exercise, play sport or engage in other physical activity more than women. This disparity is particularly marked in the 15-24 age group, with considerably more young men tending to exercise or play sport on a regular basis than young women (74% vs 55%). The amount of regular activity people engage decreases with age: 71% of women and 70% of men in the 55+ age group never or seldom exercise or play sport.

Over the course of a week, 54% of respondents did not engage in any vigorous activity (four percentage points lower than 2002) and 44% did not do any moderate physical activity (up three percentage points compared with 2002). 13% of EU citizens did not walk for at least 10 minutes on a given day within a week (four percentage points lower than 2002).

European citizens' sedentary behaviour has not improved over 11 years

On a usual day, about two-thirds (69%) of respondents spend between 2.5 and 8.5 hours sitting (an increase of five percentage points compared with 2002), while 11% sit for more than 8.5 hours and 17% for 2.5 hours or less.

Where do citizens engage in sport and other physical activity?

Most activity takes place in parks and outdoors as well as citizens' home

Sport or physical activity takes place in a wide range of locations, most commonly in parks and outdoors (40%), at home (36%) or on the journey between home and school, work or shops (25%).

Almost three-quarters of EU citizens (74%) say that they are not members of any club, a significant increase since 2009 (67%). There was a slight increase in memberships of health or fitness centres (from 9% to 11%).

What are the major motivations and barriers to sport participation?

Improving health and well-being are the main motivators

The most common reason for engaging in sport or physical activity is to improve health (62%). Other popular reasons include improving fitness (40%), relaxing (36%) and having fun (30%). These figures have not changed substantially since 2009.

Shortage of time prevents 42% of Europeans from practising sport more often

Lack of time is by far the main reason given for not practising sport more regularly (42%). Other factors include a lack of motivation or interest (20%), having a disability or illness (13%) or that it is too expensive (10%). In 2009, lack of time was cited by 45% of respondents as the main reason that prevented them from doing sport more often.

Is there support available for sport participation in the local area?

Three-quarters of respondents (76%) say that there are opportunities to be physically active in their local area, and a similar number (74%) think that their local sport clubs and other providers offer them such opportunities. The figures have not changed substantially since 2009. However, there are more mixed views on whether local authorities do enough to offer citizens such opportunities: 39% of respondents think that they are not doing enough, while 52% think they do. Opinions on this are slightly more negative than in 2009 (35% and 54% respectively).

Do Europeans engage in volunteering in sport?

Overall, 7% of EU citizens say that they engage in voluntary work that supports sport. Of this group, more than a third (35%) devotes at least six hours each month to volunteering in sport and 8% give 21 hours or more. These figures have not changed substantially since 2009; however, a shift can be seen towards volunteering more and not only occasionally at individual events. The most common activity is organising or helping to run a sporting event.

What is the European Union's policy in the area of sport and physical activity?

EU-level cooperation and dialogue in sport has greatly improved since 2007, when the European Commission adopted the White Paper on Sport - the first sport policy document published by the European Union. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, in force since December 2009, included a specific provision (Article 165), giving the EU a new competence for supporting sport. In early 2011, the Commission adopted a Communication on sport, focusing on the societal role, the economic dimension and the organisation of sport.

Based on this document, the Council adopted the first EU Work Plan for Sport covering 2011-2014, which strengthened European cooperation by setting priorities for the Member States and the Commission. In 2012, the Council adopted conclusions on promoting health-enhancing physical activity and on strengthening the evidence base for sport policy making, calling on the Commission to issue regular surveys on sport and physical activity. In May 2014, the Council is expected to adopt a new multiannual EU Work Plan for Sport.

The 2013 Council Recommendation on health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA) aims to encourage more effective policies and cooperation among all sectors that have a role to play in this field, i.e. sport and health, but also education, urban planning, the work environment. This should enable Member States, over time, to identify trends and adapt their policies to an approach involving all relevant areas.

In order to encourage people to engage more in sport and physical activity, the Commission plans to launch a European Week of Sport from 2015.

The Eurobarometer results also have to be seen in a wider health and economic context. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor for mortality. Health problems caused by physical inactivity have significant direct and indirect economic costs, due to increased health expenses, sick leave and premature death. The impact has increased due to the ageing of the European population. The benefits for European society from sport and physical activity are not only improved health and fitness, which contribute, among other things, to a healthy workforce and more productivity, but also relate to the development of skills and more integrated societies.

On the economic front, the sport sector has proved to be very stable during the crisis. The sport-related share of the economy is worth nearly 1.8% of total EU Gross Value Added or €174 billion a year, while the share of sport-related employment amounts to more than 2% of total EU employment (4.5 million people). These facts also show that the sport sector plays its part in helping to achieve the goals defined in the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

How will Erasmus+ contribute to sport?

For the first time, financial support for sport is now available as part of Erasmus+

, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020. The overall sport budget totals around €265 million over the seven years.

Specific objectives in the field of sport are to:

  • Tackle cross-border threats to the integrity of sport, such as doping, match fixing and violence, as well as all kinds of intolerance and discrimination;

  • Promote and support good governance in sport and dual careers of athletes;

  • Promote voluntary activities in sport, together with social inclusion, equal opportunities and awareness of the importance of health-enhancing physical activity, through increased participation in, and equal access to sport for all.

Under the Erasmus+: Sport heading, sport and sport-related organisations, as well as public authorities, can apply for funding through calls published every year.

For further information

IP/14/300 Eurobarometer on sport reveals high levels of inactivity in the EU

Link to the full report:

Eurobarometer homepage

Erasmus+ programme guidelines

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