• 13 – 16 April 2023
  • Exhibition Centre Cologne

21. October 2022, by Herman Rutgers

Eurobarometer study: Europe is this sporty

The European Commission's survey on sport and physical activity shows that there needs to be more incentives to keep fit.

© Unsplash

The European Commission regularly publishes the results of a special Eurobarometer survey on sport and physical activity – recently in 2013 and 2017. The aim is to gather information on what gets Europeans moving and how often, or what prevents them from doing so. A look at the key findings.

Sport needs more promotion

The Eurobarometer results are based on responses from more than 26,500 citizens from all 27 European Union member states. They show that 38 percent of Europeans exercise at least once a week or more, while 17 percent exercise less than once a week and 45 percent never exercise. Compared to the 2017 survey, the numbers are largely stable, but continued promotion of sport and physical activity is still urgently needed. The survey also shows that half of the respondents either reduced or stopped their physical activity levels altogether during the COVID-19 pandemic (see the figure below showing the responses and a comparison with 2017).

© Eurobarometer 2022

The figure shows the results compared to 2017.

“Sport alone cannot solve all our problems, but apart from the very obvious benefits for our health, it has the unique potential to bring us together and make us feel that we belong to a community,” comments Margaritis Schinas, Vice President for the Promotion of the European Way of Life, on the results. They showed that we need to continue looking for ways to motivate citizens to keep fit.

Correlation between age and activity

Respondents aged 15 to 24 were particularly likely to say they exercise regularly (54 percent). This proportion decreases with age: from 42 percent among 25- to 39-year-olds to 32 percent in the 40- to 54-year-old group and 21 percent among those over 55. Overall, the survey finds that those who exercise regularly in their free time are a minority in all EU member states.

Lack of time, lack of motivation as well as no interest in sports were the reasons given by most for their physical inactivity. In response, the Commission's HealthyLifeStyle4All campaign aims to continue to raise awareness of the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle across all generations and social groups. FIBO is also committed to promoting active and healthy lifestyles. 

Good reasons to keep moving

Respondents to the survey cited improving their health as the main reason to get active, followed by a desire to increase fitness levels and find ways to relax. Half of the respondents also expressed a desire to be active in the outdoors. This supports the Commission's efforts to make exercise more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

The Commission promotes the benefits of regular exercise for physical and mental well-being every year during the European Week of Sport in September. FIBO is among the sponsors and promoters of this program. This year, the world's largest leading trade show for fitness, wellness and health asked various experts from the industry what an active lifestyle means to them, how they integrate exercise into their everyday lives and what tips they have for making life more active. The videos can be seen on the FIBO Instagram channel in the highlights.

Members in health and fitness centers in Europe

Twelve percent of Europeans say they are members of a health or fitness center. This represents an increase of one percent compared to the 2017 survey, with more than a quarter of respondents nationally confirming membership. Sweden leads the way with 35 percent, followed by the Netherlands (29%) and Denmark (26%) in third place.  Among the more populous countries, Germany and Spain scored 13%, Poland 9% and Italy 11%. The lowest percentages were found in France and Romania (6% in both countries) and Lithuania (2%).

Summary

The European population is in a major “inactivity crisis” and the latest figures show no improvement over 2017, with the Corona pandemic likely to have a significant impact. On the positive side, there has again been an upswing in fitness memberships, which have increased from 11% in 2017 to 12% in 2022. Still, there is great potential for growth when looking at the huge disparity between the highest and lowest penetration countries.