The Netherlands Sports Council advocates iconic measures to encourage physical activity

In a letter to informateur Mariëtte Hamer, the Netherlands Sports Council (NLsportraad) calls on the next government to take the necessary and iconic measures to encourage physical activity among the population. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, this issue is more urgent than ever, as an inactive lifestyle and overweight not only lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression but also undermine a person’s immune system.

The Council calls for more far-reaching measures than those originally proposed by the six ministries in the letter A physically active and healthy population in the Netherlands. Unless iconic measures are taken, the Netherlands Sports Council expects the pandemic of a lack of physical activity, overweight, and associated illnesses to continue for decades.

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The Council advises the government to view measures that target the lack of physical activity as a means of health protection instead of as a form of health promotion focused on individual behavioural changes. Within the context of health protection, the risks associated with a lack of physical activity need to be eliminated as much as possible: at school, at work, in one’s neighbourhood, and in the care sector. In line with previous recommendations, the Netherlands Sports Council recommends integrating sport and physical activity in the daily lives of children, adults, and seniors in a structured fashion. Current legislation will also have to be modified for that purpose.

Leisure time sport and physical activity is becoming increasingly important, certainly now that we are spending much more time at home. The Netherlands Sports Council, in its advice The positioning on the playing field, recommended treating sport as a public facility and anchoring the associated responsibility of the national government, provinces, and municipalities in a Sport Act. In the letter to the informateur, the Council requests that the Sport Act be enacted as soon as possible and that the target year for achieving the goal of having 75% of the population participating sufficiently in sports and physical activity be moved from 2040 to 2030. The Council also makes it clear that investments are needed in adequate sports facilities, further professionalisation of the sports sector, and improving the accessibility of sports activities for vulnerable groups.