The number of people in the Netherlands aged four and over who meet the Physical Activity Guidelines has fallen since 2020. In 2022, 44.3% of the population was sufficiently physically active. Particularly adolescents, young adults, people who do paid work and people educated to a higher level were less physically active than in 2019. These are the findings of a study in which RIVM compared the 2019 figures (before the COVID-19 pandemic) to the 2022 figures (after the pandemic). All of the above groups now cycle less in their spare time and adolescents cycle to and from school less often. In addition, young adults now walk less, particularly in their spare time. 

The Health Survey/Lifestyle Monitor shows a decline of 4.7% across the whole population aged four and over. The decline was greatest among young adults (ages 18–29): 9.2%. This figure was also higher than average for adolescents aged 12–17 (7.5%), people who do paid work (6.4%) and people educated to a higher level (7.5%). 

E-bike use may have been a factor

One remarkable finding was that adolescents are playing sports more, but meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines less often. This is due to a significant drop in the number of minutes they spend cycling per week. That number has fallen both for cycling in their spare time (-51 minutes) and cycling to and from school (-48), while the number of days per week they cycle to and from school (four on average) has remained the same. This may be due to the use of the e-bike. E-bikes make it possible to cover the same distance in less time, which could explain the drop in the number of minutes spent cycling per week. 

Combination of less physical activity and high sedentariness prompts concern

The aforementioned groups are also those that spend the highest number of hours a day on average in a sedentary position (Dutch report, English synopsis). RIVM believes this is cause for concern. High sedentariness has been linked to an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and premature death, with the link being the most pronounced for those who are less physically active. By contrast, this link is almost non-existent for people who are very physically active and amply meet the Physical Activity Guidelines. 

About the Physical Activity Guidelines

The Health Council of the Netherlands has set out Physical Activity Guidelines. These guidelines state that adults should take part in at least 2.5 hours of moderate to intensive physical activity per week, spread out across multiple days. Walking and cycling are examples of this kind of physical activity. The recommendation for children is at least one hour of physical activity every day. Additionally, adults should take part in activities that strengthen muscles and bones at least twice a week and children at least three times a week.