Exercise is a basic necessity in wake of pandemic: Dutch Sports Council
It is high time that the government acknowledged that sport and exercise are basic life necessities, according to the Dutch Sports Council. Movement can help in both enabling better protection against the development of diseases and against the serious consequences of infectious diseases, including Covid-19, the council pointed out in a letter to the Ministers of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS).
The council called on the three ministers to regard sports and exercise as a basic necessity of life and to protect the Dutch population against inactivity. With two pandemic "wake-up calls" –– lack of exercise and Covid-19 –– plus research showing that lack of exercise is the biggest health problem of the 21st century, the council was surprised and saddened that in her first week, Minister Conny Helder indicated that sport and exercise are not an essential service, it said.
The council also encouraged the government to switch to health protection rather than health promotion. Health promotion assumes that citizens can make an individual choice for a healthy lifestyle, whereas the basic principle of health protection is that the government must protect citizens from an unhealthy lifestyle.
“People cannot always make the personal choice to have an active lifestyle. Just look at neighborhoods without sports facilities," said council member Erik Scherder. "Or take schools, offices and care institutions where children, adults and the elderly are 'forced' to sit. But also think of groups of people who have little choices, such as people with a disability or a low income. In situations like this, people must be protected by the government from inactivity."
Protection has proven to be a better route than health promotion, according to the council. This was demonstrated in the anti-smoking measures which have included banning smoking advertisements and smoking in the workplace and in the hospitality industry.
The sports council believes the government can play a crucial, protective role in tackling lack of exercise. It also encourages a law that will make sport and exercise available to everyone.
“The urgency of the issue of inactivity is so great that we cannot ignore it," said Council Chair Michael van Praag. "Until then, the Public Health Act offers the Cabinet the opportunity to declare sport and exercise essential, so that the current sport and exercise offer can remain open under all circumstances."
Reporting by ANP