The popularity of e-bikes has been blamed for contributing to a decline in exercise as people prioritise cutting their commuting time.
The public health agency RIVM said on Tuesday that only 44% of people managed to achieve its target of two and a half hours of moderate to intense exercise a week.
The proportion has been falling since the coronavirus pandemic: in 2019 49% of people managed to achieve the target level.
Teenagers and young adults in particular spent more time participating in sports, but this was offset by the fact that they walked and cycled less in their spare time.
Children aged 12 to 17 spend 48 minutes a week less cycling to school and 51 minutes less in their free time, according to the RIVM.
Researcher Tessa Schurink told NOS that e-bikes played a big part in the trend, with people able to cover longer distances in less time while expending less energy. Recent figures show more than half of new bikes purchased are electric powered.
“If you leave the car at home and take the electric bike, that’s obviously better, but replacing a regular bike with an electric one that has supported pedals is less intense,” she said.
The RIVM is also concerned that young people and well educated adults spent the most time sitting down, increasing their risk of a range of diseases and conditions including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression. Elderly people who exercise too little are at greater risk of suffering broken bones.
The Diabetesfonds charity has also warned this week that it is seeing more cases of type 2 diabetes in children. It blames a lack of exercise and a diet high in processed foods.