Eurobarometer: 39% of Europeans never play sports
By Gaspard Sebag | Monday 29 March 2010
A special Eurobarometer survey on sport and physical activity, published on 29 March by the European Commission, shows only 40% of European Union citizens play sports at least once a week, while 39% of the respondents said they never do physical exercise. Citizens of Mediterranean countries and of the 12 member states that joined the EU since 2004 penalise the EU average the most, while those of Nordic countries boost it. In total, in 15 EU countries at least half of the citizens quizzed state that they never play sports or do so less than once a month.
The three countries whose citizens exercise the least often are Bulgaria, Greece and Italy, with 3% playing sports regularly. Greece is the country that counts the most respondents (67%) who say they never play any sport at all. In stark contrast are Sweden and Finland, which count 72% of their citizens exercising at least once a week. Denmark comes in third position in this ranking, with 64%.
Health is the main consideration for EU citizens when it comes to exercise. Other factors, like personal appearance and pure enjoyment, are also significant. The most commonly invoked reason to explain the lack of exercise is shortage of time: 45% complain they are too busy. The cost of exercising and the lack of suitable infrastructure are generally not seen as major considerations.
Socio-demographic factors, however, play an important role. Overall, men play more sport than women. This difference is most notable in between young men and young women, with 71% of men of the 15-24 age group playing sports at least once a week, as compared to 50% of women for that same age group. Higher levels of education are also linked with higher amounts of sport played. Out of the people who had left the education system by the age of fifteen, 64% say they never play sports. The corresponding statistic for those who left the education system after the age of 20 falls to 24%.
Sport became one of the EU’s supporting, coordinating and supplementing competences since the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. The EU should therefore be actively aiming to promote sport and physical activity at the policy level. The disappointing results of this Eurobarometer should therefore stir the Directorate-General Education and Culture to greater action. The scope of the task ahead is considerable and the margin of manoeuvre for this essentially domestic and regional issue is conversely limited.
Nevertheless, Androulla Vassiliou, the commissioner responsible for sport, announced a forthcoming initiative later this year “aimed at encouraging more Europeans to make sport and physical activity part of their daily lives”. This initiative will be presented as a communication to the European Parliament and the Council, flanked by a proposal to establish a new sport programme, which will support projects and supplement policies in the member states.
The survey is available at
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