European week of sport: Promoting physical activity is a win-win for Europe

Written by Marc Tarabella on 24 September 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

Encouraging Europeans to practice a regular physical activity would greatly improve their health and wellbeing, writes Marc Tarabella.

Marc Tarabella | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual


The European Week of Sport is the largest EU campaign aimed at promoting sport and physical activity. It is also seeking to encourage citizens to adopt healthier and more active lifestyles.

The latest figures are worrying - the number of inactive Europeans has increased. According to the latest Eurobarometer survey, nearly half of Europeans (46 per cent) do not take part in any physical activity. This sedentarism is on the rise; the previous survey in 2014 revealed that only 42 per cent of people never exercised.

Another problem is that 12 per cent of Europeans spend more than eight and a half hours a day sitting down, usually at work. Meanwhile, 15 per cent walk for less than 10 minutes continuously at any point during the week. This is despite countless studies showing the benefits of sport for mental and physical health.


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These bleak statistics are yet another reminder of how important it is to raise public awareness and alert people to worsening figures, and increasingly unhealthy lifestyles which are leading to serious consequences.

I was glad that over 13 million people took part in one of the 35,000 events organised for last year’s European week of sport. In 2017, the emphasis was on schools; pupils were encouraged to be active and were given opportunities to do so.

Physical activity undeniably improves students’ wellbeing and learning. Team sports are a fun way of reinforcing a sense of belonging in school, promoting social inclusion and developing students’ social skills.

Crucially, a child that has experienced the benefits of sport is more likely to continue with an active lifestyle as an adult.

Two million children in 7000 schools took part in last year’s event, a success that will hopefully be repeated in 2018. This year’s European week of sport will, as always, take place in a variety of locations; primarily in schools to promote sport among children and teenagers. 

In addition, there will be events organised in the workplace to encourage citizens to take a regular physical activity. Some events will take place outdoors, to encourage sport in urban and rural areas. Sport and fitness centres will also be taking part, playing their role in promoting physical activity.

Sport is rarely at the top of governments’ political agendas, but practising sport - or at least regular physical exercise - is essential for public health. Policymakers and company directors are strongly influenced by financial arguments. 

Therefore, it is important to remind them that physical and mental fulfilment leads to improved wellbeing and quality of life, which correlates with greater productivity and consumption. With more sport and physical activity, we are all winners.

 

About the author

Marc Tarabella is co-President of Parliament’s sport intergroup

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