On Thursday 23 September 2021, the first day of the European Week of Sport, the HealthyLifestyle4All initiative was launched in Bled, Slovenia. This two-year campaign aims at improving the health and wellbeing of European citizens and will further highlighting the link between physical activity and a healthier lifestyle. The actions of this campaign will focus on three objectives: raise more awareness for healthy lifestyle across all generations; support an easier access to sport and physical activity, especially for vulnerable groups; and promote a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.
In her opening remarks, Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, underlined how people’s awareness on the importance of physical activity increased in the past years, especially since the pandemic. It is therefore important to build on this momentum to further promote the role of regular exercise for healthier societies. Subsequently, Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting the European Way of Life, emphasized on the role of physical activity, not only for our physical and mental health, but also for economic reasons. Indeed, he explained that the lack of physical activity has a negative impact on people’s health, which results in economic costs. Furthermore, Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, added that good health is indeed the basis for strong economies and societies. For this reason, promoting health prevention policies is particularly relevant, especially through healthy lifestyle.
All participants, which included representatives from Member States, European Institutions, as well as sport and physical activity stakeholders, welcomed the launch of this initiative, especially as the latest studies show that nearly half of Europeans do not take part in any type of physical activity. Yet, leading a healthy lifestyle can greatly contribute to reduce the risks of many non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Dr Kremlin Wickramasinghe, Programme Manager for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, WHO Europe, indeed explained that 80% of NCDs are due to unhealthy lifestyles, including physical inactivity which is an important risk factor. This initiative and its follow-up projects would thus contribute to reduce the burden of NCDs.
The European Commission will act as coordinator of the campaign and will implement several actions such as increasing funding for projects supporting a healthy lifestyle through several programmes including Erasmus+, Horizon Europe, and EU4Health. As this initiative is also part of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, a new app for cancer prevention raising the importance of healthy lifestyles will also be created. Addressing the importance of physical activity and healthy lifestyles will also be addressed in schools through education recommendations. Lastly, knowledge centers will be further developed to support evidence-based policy-making.
As the initiative also relies on civil society organisations, several of them, including EuropeActive already submitted their pledge on how to contribute to this campaign and promote active lifestyles. The Healthy Hour will encourage individuals to be active by using free digital tools. It will also promote the social, physical, and mental health benefits of physical activity and how innovative ways can help more people to be more active more often.
You can watch the recording of the launch event here.
Read EuropeActive’s updated information paper on Health Enhancing Physical Activity here.