In 2021, 47% of people aged four years and older in the Netherlands got the amount of physical activity recommended by the Physical Activity Guidelines. Children aged 4 to 11 years were most likely to meet the standard. Conversely, young people between the ages of 12 and 17 fell short. This is the outcome of a study conducted by RIVM. 

The Health Council of the Netherlands has set out Physical Activity Guidelines. These guidelines state that adults should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate to intense physical activity each week, divided between multiple days. Walking and cycling are examples of this kind of exercise. The recommendation for children is at least one hour of physical activity every day. The Council recommends that both groups do activities that strengthen muscles and bones.

Activities that count toward the recommendation

This study was the first time that researchers looked at which physical activities were most significant for different groups in meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines. In general, the most important sources of physical activity were walking in leisure time, playing sports and cycling in leisure time. However, the findings among children were different. For them, the most important sources of physical activity were playing outside at recess and in their free time, as well as taking part in sports. For adolescents sports, riding a bike to school (or work) and gym class at school were the most important sources of physical activity.

Differences in physical activity habits

Some groups tend to be less physically active. These were individuals with a lower level of education or a lower household income, people with a non-Western immigrant background, those with chronic health conditions and physical disabilities, and overweight people.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

For part of 2021, Dutch people were asked to follow certain restrictions to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. This sometimes got in the way of the study, because the restrictions made it more difficult to visit hard-to-reach people at home for an interview. These groups tend to be less physically active. The researchers took this into account when calculating the figures. Still, it is possible that the percentages given in the study are more positive than the actual percentages.

About the Physical Activity Guidelines

The Dutch government has set a goal for 2040. It wants 75% of Dutch people to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines. Getting the recommended amount of physical activity reduces the chance of physical and mental health problems. This goal is part of the National Prevention Agreement. To help achieve it, the Physical Activity Alliance was created in 2022. The trend in meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines standard since 2001 can be found at