Study finds that nearly half of EU residents get no exercise 

With healthcare costs reaching over 15% of the EU’s total expenditure in 2020, finding ways to improve mental and physical health is more important than ever. 

Regular physical activity like exercise or sports is one of the best ways to support well-being. However, a new survey found that nearly half of Europeans don’t get any exercise at all. 

The survey was put together by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in April and May last year. The results show that 45% of EU residents reported that they never exercise or play sports. 

The report, which is called “Step Up”, also found that if everyone in the EU met the current WHO recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, life expectancy could increase by 7.5 months. It could also reduce some of the burdens of high healthcare costs, which vary across the EU. 

How much exercise is normal in the EU? 

The survey asked EU residents how often they took part in any kind of exercise. That included any physical activity in a sports setting, swimming, training in a sports centre or club, going to the gym, organised team sports, or running in a park. 

45% of the respondents said they didn’t get any exercise, 17% said they rarely exercised or played sports, 32% said they did sometimes, and 6% said they did regularly. The percentage of people who never play sports or exercise was highest in Portugal at 75% and lowest in Finland at 8%. 

Women were less likely to exercise than men, with 49% of women saying they never exercise compared with 40% of men. Younger people were the most likely to exercise or play sports regularly, and the percentage decreased with age, reaching just 21% among the over 55s. 

When asked for the reasons for not exercising more often, lack of time was the most common answer with 41% reporting this reason. The second most common was a lack of motivation or interest, with 25% of respondents giving that answer. 


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