Eastern European countries lead the way in physical activity – or do they?
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Eastern European countries lead the way in physical activity – or do they?

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The latest data on physical activity levels in the European Union seem to suggest that countries on the Eastern edge of the EU are more active than those in central Europe and the west.

Country-specific overviews on physical activity – published by the European Commission in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) – show that the EU’s most physically active countries are Greece and Hungary, closely followed by Slovakia and Romania.

According to the report, 85 per cent of the population in Greece and Hungary meet the WHO minimum recommendation of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week – or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.

For Slovakia and Romania the figure is 81 per cent, while Germany (39 per cent), Ireland (31 per cent) and Austria (30 per cent) are among the least physically active.

The stats, however, should be approached with caution as there are discrepancies between the data sets from country to country and the methodologies used in gathering the data.

Many of the countries which have reported high number of active adults – including table-topping Hungary – do not have national monitoring centres or services for health and physical activity. In these cases, figures are based on WHO estimations using global surveillance systems.

The danger in trusting WHO estimations becomes clear when studying those countries with an established health monitoring system – such as Finland and Estonia – as differences between the figures published by the national systems and those by WHO are huge.

The Finnish national database shows that only 34 per cent of the adult population reached the WHO recommended levels in 2013 – but WHO claims that 74 per cent reached the levels in 2010.

For Estonia, the differences are even more stark – official Estonian government figures show that 36.7 per cent of the population met WHO recommended levels in 2014, but WHO estimates the figure at 85 per cent (in 2010).

The following table should, therefore, be treated with caution and additional examination of the individual country sheets are recommended (this can be done by clicking on the country name). The documents and further information can also be accessed by clicking here.

EU LEAGUE TABLE OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

A list of all EU countries and the percentage of their populations that meet the WHO recommended physical activity levels for adults – (150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week). The individual country sheet can be accessed by clicking on the name of the country. The UK has been divided into its four home nations as each provided separate data. For an explanation on how the figures were sourced, click here

Hungary 85%

Greece 85%Slovakia 81%

Romania 81%Croatia 80%

Latvia 76%Czech Republic 72%

Denmark 67%Spain 66%

Sweden 66%Cyprus 65%

Italy 64%Scotland 64%

Belgium 63%Portugal 63%

Netherlands 61%Northern Ireland 61%

Luxembourg 61%England 60%

Malta 59%Germany 39%

Estonia 37%Finland 34%

Wales 31%Ireland 31%

Austria 30%Poland 20%

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The latest data on physical activity levels in the European Union seem to suggest that countries on the Eastern edge of the EU are more active than those in central Europe and the west.
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