According to the latest figures from Dutch statistics office CBS, more than half of Dutch adults don’t exercise enough.
This includes both moderate-intensity exercise such as cycling and walking and also muscle and bone-building activities such as football or weightlifting.
According to the Health Council’s exercise guidelines, adults should do at least two and a half hours of moderately intensive activities over the course of a week and muscle and bone-strengthening exercises at least twice a week.
While most Dutch people, 78%, still get enough muscle and bone strengthening exercise, only half of adults do enough light exercise. Forty-four percent do both, according to the figures, which were collected in collaboration with the RIVM, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.
The numbers of people getting sufficient exercise has been decreasing over the years. The government wants 75 percent of the Dutch population to meet its exercise guidelines by 2040 to prevent or remedy physical and mental problems. When they were introduced in 2017, 47% of adults met them. Last year, only 44% were in compliance.
Age and education
The figures also show that people exercise less as they age. Less than three in ten people over 75 meet the exercise guidelines. And the older they get, the less often they exercise weekly: 63% of 18 to 35-year-olds exercise compared to 31% of over-75s.
But the more educated people are, the more often they workout, a trend that’s been noticed for decades but became increasingly apparent doing Covid, when team sports were temporarily banned and more solo activities, like running and cycling, were taken up largely by higher-educated people.
According to the Mulier Institute, which researches sport and exercise, “sports socialization”—where sports are fun and encouraged in one’s social environment—plays an important role. Enthusiasm for sports is passed down through the generations, and those who live in such sporty environments are more prone to maintain their healthy habits for longer.
Free time and cost, says the research institute, have little influence on how much people exercise. But sex, say the numbers, do: more men (52%) than women (49%) exercised every week in 2022, with men doing sufficient moderate or vigorous intensity activities while more women did activities that strengthen bones and muscles.
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