Half of Dutch population meet physical activity guidelines

© Hollandse Hoogte / David Rozing
In 2019, almost half of the Dutch population aged 4 years and over complied with the standards for physical activity as set by the Health Council of the Netherlands. Young people between the ages of 12 and 18 and people aged 65 and over are less likely to meet these guidelines. Nevertheless, the number of elderly (over-65s) who get sufficient exercise is twice as large as two decades ago. This is evident from figures published in the 2019 National Health Survey/Lifestyle Monitor, which Statistics Netherlands (CBS) conducted in collaboration with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).

[video: https://www.cbs.nlen-gb/video/dc7453256cfb4ce18f7ef362a0a65c18]

(English subtitles available)

According to the physical activity guidelines of the Health Council, adults should be physically active at moderate intensity for at least two and half hours every week. Children should exercise for at least one hour every day. The Health Council also recommends engaging in muscle and bone-strengthening activities in order to lower the risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, depressive symptoms and, in older adults, bone fractures.

Infographic, Physical activity guidelines

More than half exercise on a weekly basis

In 2019, 82 percent of the Dutch population aged 4 years and over engaged in sufficient muscle and bone-strengthening activities; 54 percent met the guideline of moderately intense activity per week and 54 percent indicated that they engaged in weekly sports activities.

Muscle and bone-strengthening exercises are performed less frequently as people get older: while compliance is still 99.8 percent among 4 to 11-year-olds, it only applies to 75 percent of the over-65s. Although 12 to 17-year-olds are less compliant with the physical activity guidelines (41 percent), they are most likely to take part in weekly sports activities (71 percent, against 35 percent among the over-65s).

Compliance with physical activity guidelines, 2019
 Total (%)4 to 11 yrs (%)12 to 17 yrs (%)18 to 64 yrs (%)65 yrs and over (%)
Comply with the physical activity guidelines4955.940.551.740.3
Engage in sufficient physical activity at moderate intensity54.155.941.757.845.9
Do sufficient muscle and bone-strengthening exercises82.599.893.581.274.5
Take part in weekly sports activities53.863.271.35635.4

Share of over-65s who meet the guidelines nearly doubled

Physical activity has been an upward trend among seniors: in 2001, 22 percent of the over-65s complied with the guidelines, versus 40 percent in 2019. A slight increase is seen in the age group 18 to 64 years, from 44 to 52 percent.

Last year, questions on physical education were added to the National Health Survey/Lifestyle Monitor to gain a better insight into exercise behaviour of young people aged 12 to 17 years. In 2019, 41 percent indicated taking sufficient exercise while this share was still 34 percent in 2018.

Compliance with physical activity guidelines1)
 4 to 11 yrs (%)12 to 17 yrs (%)18 to 64 yrs (%)65 yrs and over (%)
1)Questions on physical activity among children aged 4 to 11 yrs have been included in the National Health Survey/Lifestyle Monitor as of 2016.

Three-quarters of those exercising weekly are members of a sports club

In 2019, 74 percent of the Dutch population aged 4 years and over who indicated that they took part in weekly sports activities had a subscription at a sports provider, fitness centre, dance school or swimming pool, or were members of a sports association. Of those not engaging in weekly sports activities, over 6 percent had such a subscription or membership.

Nearly 54 percent of those who comply with the physical activity guidelines have a subscription or membership from a sports association, against 32 percent of those who do not comply.

Subscription or membership at a sports association, 2019
Voldoen aan beweegrichtlijnenJa/neeSubscription or membership at a sports association (%)No subscription or membership at a sports association (%)
Engage in weekly sports activitiesJa7426
Engage in weekly sports activitiesNee694
Comply with physical activity guidelinesJa5446
Comply with physical activity guidelinesNee3268