What is it about?

Physical activity, including regular exercise and sporting activity, is the best way of staying physically and mentally fit, helps to tackle weight and obesity issues, and plays an important part in preventing or reducing the impact of many other health-related conditions.

Apart from the individual health benefits, there is evidence on the positive direct and indirect economic effects of participation in sport and physical activity.

Why is it needed?

Research shows that too many people across Europe are not physically active enough. This has a serious impact on general health, the frequency of preventable diseases, and the number of premature deaths.

These, in turn, have considerable social and economic costs. While the promotion of health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA) is primarily the responsibility of EU Member States, the Commission is able to support, coordinate and complement national actions.

What has been done so far?

The majority of activities in the field of sport now focus on implementing the Council Recommendation on promoting health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA) across sectors in order to encourage the development of effective policies in the Member States.

A key element of this initiative is a light monitoring framework that takes into account the 2008 EU Physical Activity Guidelines   and should help to improve information and data on HEPA levels and policies, as well as strengthening cooperation between stakeholders (such as the EU Member States, the World Health Organization, and civil society).

In December 2016, the Commission issued a first report on the implementation of that Council Recommendation on HEPA. This first report showed several positive developments, including the adoption of many new policies and action plans as well as the strengthening of cross-sector cooperation at national level. Country factsheets have been released in cooperation with the World Health Organization as part of the process. These country factsheets provide an overview of relevant policies and actions in the EU and serve as a rich source of data for further analysis and exchange of good practices.

In addition, the Commission supports the Member States and the civil society by commissioning studies on relevant topics, such as a study on the EU Physical Activity Guidelines and a study on physical activity at the workplace.

DG EAC has also been responsible for supporting projects in the field of physical activity in since 2009, and has included the promotion of HEPA as one of the priorities of the Erasmus+ programme, as well as part of the 2013-2017 European Statistical Programme for Sport.

In December 2017, the Commission organised a seminar on "Encouraging Participation in Sport and Physical Activity", bringing together all projects on this topic co-funded by the EU from 2014 to 2016 under the sport chapter of the Erasmus+ programme, to exchange ideas, best practices, share case studies, and find possible synergies across the programme.

The European Week of Sport was launched in 2015, it now takes place every year between 23 and 30 September.

Lastly, in September 2017, the Tartu call for a healthy lifestyle was launched in the Estonian city of the same name by Commissioners Phil Hogan (agriculture and rural development), Tibor Navracsics (education, culture, youth and sport) and Vytenis Andrikiukaitis (health and food safety), and sets out a roadmap for promoting healthy lifestyles in Europe, particular amongst children, over the next two years.

What are the next steps?

The Commission will continue to support the Member States in implementing the Council Recommendation on HEPA at national level, and to promote the functioning of the associated monitoring framework.

Under the Erasmus+ programme, support for projects, events, and measures to strengthen the evidence-base for policy and for dialogue is foreseen, with a particular focus on activities to support the further implementation of the EU Physical Activity Guidelines.

The Commission will take stock of progress made in implementing the Tartu Call for a Healthy Lifestyle by end 2019.