Sports consulting newsletter #6 - Sports and health has been saved
Sports consulting newsletter #6 - Sports and health
At the end of September 2019, the fifth edition of the European Week of Sport took place in over 40 countries around the world. Launched in 2015, the Week is a joint response to a worsening inactivity crisis: despite sports and physical activity having an important impact on the health and wellbeing of the population, the level of physical activity is stagnating, or even declining in some European countries. To combat this inertia, this year, more than 23,000 events were organized to inspire people to be active on a regular basis. In Luxembourg, this meant yoga classes, golf sessions, the #BeActive Night, and much more.
This newsletter looks at the benefits of sport and physical activity and presents some of the main projects launched by the Luxembourg government in response. Moreover, it highlights why children and young people are the focus of the fight against physical inactivity.
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The case for a more physically-active society
There is a great amount of scientific evidence on the positive effects of sports and physical activity on health: it helps, among others, the prevention of chronic diseases, such as certain types of cancer or diabetes. These chronic diseases are, together with heart diseases, collectively responsible for over 70 percent of all deaths worldwide, according to WHO data and can be caused by physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. To fight this, the WHO will work with governments to help them meet the global target of reducing physical inactivity by 15 percent by 2030. With an ever-increasing amount of initiatives created to foster the playing of sports and encourage physical activity, the Luxembourg Government is demonstrating its strong commitment to a more active and therefore healthier society.
Luxembourg health and the national action plan
While Luxembourg has a well-developed healthcare system, 58.7 percent of the Luxembourg population aged 18+ was overweight or obese in 2016, according to WHO data. To promote physical activity and to facilitate access to it, the Luxembourg government implemented a national action plan, responding to the recommendations of the European Commission and the European Parliament.
The “Gesond iessen, méei bewegen” or GIMB, is an inter-ministerial and inter-disciplinary project that was first implemented in 2006 and was updated and expanded for the period 2018-2025. The plan focuses on winning new political and non-political partners, on coordinating activities across the state, and on ensuring a coherent approach to getting people moving. The Nuit du Sport, a national annual event, was launched in 2009 as part of this plan. Municipalities are incentivized to provide an opportunity for their residents to discover new sports in a welcoming, fun environment, promoting social inclusion at a local level. The 11th edition, which took place in June, attracted more than 9,000 participants participating in more than 185 disciplines offered by different sports associations, sports clubs, and other partners across the country.
The Luxembourg fight against the physical inactivity of children
While the above mentioned incentives and the action plan target the population as a whole, the Luxembourg government is paying special attention to the younger generation. The lack of physical activity observed amongst children is one of the biggest and most important challenges in today’s society, as described in the “Accord de Coalition 2018-2023”. According to the school health division of the Luxembourg government, in 2018, 5 percent of secondary school students were obese and 8 percent were overweight. These relatively high numbers have been more or less stable over the last years.
A report from the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace states that young people can benefit from physical activity as it contributes to developing healthy bones, efficient heart and lung function, improved motor skills, and increased cognitive function. In May 2018 , the Luxembourg government presented a concept promoting physical activity and sports among children. This concept, “Concept pour une éducation motrice, physique et sportive des enfants de 0 à 12 ans“, aims to help build healthy habits and to foster kids’ and adolescents’ interest early on. It defines roles and guidelines for all the actors having an impact on the physical activity of children including primary schools, sports clubs, SEAs (Services d’éducation et d’accueil), and parents. It includes, among others, the subvention of sports rooms by the Sports ministry and the collaboration with sports clubs to allow and facilitate participation in sports activities.
One of the guidelines encourages the integration of physical education in the school curriculum as well as additional daily physical activity, adopting the idea behind the project “Bewegte Schule – clever move”. This project was launched in 2014 and will be further expanded in primary schools and SEAs. It consists of the integration of about 15-20 minutes per day of active breaks and relaxation exercises or incorporating movement into the learning process, i.e. reading while walking or learning vocabulary while walking the stairs, etc.
An ongoing process
The benefits of sport on health have been exhaustively studied and show that physical activity in general plays a crucial role when it comes to the wellbeing of the society as a whole. Besides the direct benefits, it is a cost-effective method of improving public health across populations. The government follows this trend and puts a focus on children to foster the creation of healthy habits as well as education on the topic early on. What better sector to promote than sports?
Giulia Bruni Roccia
Eleonore Moreau Gentien