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Inactivity is a health problem that stores up problems for the future

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Europeans are insufficiently active, resulting in more than half a million deaths a year – and possibly worse consequences in future, according to the report “The economic costs of physical inactivity in Europe” by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) presented at a Friends of Europe Café Crossfire debate on 17 June.

“Inactivity is a health problem that stores up problems for the future,” said Vicky Pryce, lead author of the study. “It isn’t static. If we don’t get people moving now then physical inactivity is going to pose a greater risk than now.” The report showed that a quarter of European adults and four in five adolescents are insufficiently active, and that inactivity costs €80bn a year to EU member states through coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, colorectal cancer and breast cancer.

Electorates are typically concerned about financing ways to fix the problem resulting from inactivity, such as healthcare. So governments are often less interested in funding programmes that would get people moving more, even though these are less costly, said Mogens Kirkeby, President of the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA). “On the political side, we know that preventive actions are not very attractive,” he said. “Cures are very attractive. But prevention is more fun – and cheaper.”

Bringing just one fifth of currently inactive Europeans up to the recommended levels of activity would yield benefits worth up to €16bn according to the CEBR study. Highlighting the economic potential for sport could make it more attractive to promote activity, said MEP Seán Kelly, Founding Executive Chairman of the Irish Institute of Sport. “The sector has strong potential to contribute to jobs,” he said. “If you bring the economic factors in, you can make it more relevant.”


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