On 19 September, the European Commission published the fifth Eurobarometer on sport and physical activity. The data is compared with the latest 2017 survey in order to analyse trends on participation levels, obstacles and preferences of EU citizens.
The survey reveals that 38% of Europeans play a sport or exercise once a week, while 17% play less than once a week and 45% do not engage in physical activity at all. The share of inactive people, while stable compared with 2017, has increased by 6 percentage points since 2009. Only less than one in ten (6%) respondents exercise five times a week or more (stable). During the pandemic, half of Europeans halved if not completely zeroed their activity level. As for a comparison between age groups, respondents between 15 and 24 years old engage in physical activity with some regularity 54% of the time, a figure that drops at 42% between 25 and 39, 32% between 40 and 54, and 21% among those over 55. Overall, only a minority of Europeans practice recreational physical activity regularly. The main obstacles are, in descending order, lack of time, lack of motivation or lack of interest in sports.
As for reasons for engaging in physical activity, the desire to improve one's health, fitness level, and find a way to relax prevail. Half of the respondents expressed a desire to exercise outdoors (% growing). Also the number of people who prefer to practice sports at home is on the rise, probably due to the pandemic. In contrast, the number of members in clubs or fitness centres is decreasing (28% compared to 33% in 2017; Sport clubs: 12%, unchanged).
In conclusion, the pandemic had a limited effect on the physical activity of Europeans, with an equal division between those who maintained or increased their level of training and those who did not. Worryingly, large socio-demographic differences remain, as women, the elderly and people with a lower economic or educational level participate less in sport.