“Sport for all” policies encourage physical activity

Mapping and assessing the effectiveness of policies on sport and physical activity across the WHO European Region are important parts of WHO/Europe’s work to promote physical activity. Experts from 19 countries met recently to discuss these issues, network and identify important synergies and divergences between sport and health. The meeting was part of the activities of WHO/Europe’s project on promoting networking, exchange and greater synergy between sport and health-enhancing physical activity sectors (NET-SPORT-HEALTH), co-financed by the European Commission.

The participants identified factors in and recommendations on encouraging health-enhancing physical activity that included the following.

  • Facilitate cooperation between the sport, health and other sectors to promote public health.
  • Focus on “sport for all” approaches to increase participation, rather than channelling resources to elite sports and one-off high-prestige events.
  • Focus on recreational activities and unorganized sport.
  • Involve the active transportation and urban planning sectors to increase physical activity.
  • Address the specific needs of different target groups; increasing participation is a question of offering types of activities suitable for different groups, and ensuring their accessibility.
  • Prioritize work in settings where sedentary population groups can be reached, such as schools and workplaces.
  • Increase physical education in schools to reach the younger population.
  • Develop strong health and economic arguments to create more political will for and commitment to promoting health-enhancing physical activity.

In the NET-SPORT-HEALTH project, WHO/Europe has collated over 100 documents on sport and physical activity and conducted a content analysis of 25. WHO/Europe plans to publish the results of the content analysis and make information on the collected documents available in a database on nutrition, obesity and physical activity.

Move for Health Day

WHO created Move for Health Day in 2002 to promote physical activity and national activities highlighting its many benefits. This international event is celebrated annually around 10 May. Many countries hold events. In Finland, for example, the Central Association for Recreational Sports and Outdoor Activities (Suomen Latu) is coordinating its 2011 celebration under the theme “Together”.

Physical inactivity – a leading cause of noncommunicable diseases

Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death globally. In the WHO European Region, over 8 million disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) are lost every year due to insufficient physical activity. The United Nations’ High-level Meeting on Non-communicable Diseases, taking place on 19–20 September 2011 in New York, USA, will focus a global spotlight on prevention and control, and address physical inactivity as a major risk factor.