In which countries do people exercise most around the world – and what stops them doing more?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • An Ipsos survey asked 21,000 adults about exercise habits.
  • People in the Netherlands are the most physically active, spending more than 12 hours a week exercising or playing sport.
  • More than half of people (58%) across the 29 countries surveyed want to play more sport.
  • Men spend 90 more minutes (on average) doing physical exercise than women each week.

Exercise is proven to keep us fit and healthy as we age – reducing our risk of dementia and boosting our immune systems.

But more than half of us feel they’re not playing enough sport, according to a new global survey of exercise trends.

Ipsos asked more than 21,000 adults from 29 countries about how active they are. Here are some of the key findings:

Which nations do the most and least exercise?

a chart showing the mean number of physical exercise hours per week
Citizens of the Netherlands are the most active. Image: IPSOS

On average people spend around six hours being active each week, almost an hour each day.

People in the Netherlands are the most physically active, spending more than 12 hours a week exercising or playing sport, followed by people from Germany and Romania, both at around 11 hours.

At the other end of the scale are people in Brazil, Japan, Italy, Chile and France, who do less than four hours of physical activity each week.

One in three people in Japan (34%) said they don’t exercise at all, compared to only 4% of people in the Netherlands, while the global average is 14%.

What’s stopping people from playing sport?

this chart shows the barriers that stop people from practising sports
Lack of time is the most common barrier. Image: IPSOS

More than half of people (58%) want to play more sport across the 29 countries surveyed, with only 6% people saying they want to play less.

Not having enough time was the main reason people gave for not playing more sport, followed by lack of money and then the weather being either too hot or too cold.

Not having sports facilities – or people to play – completed the top five reasons why people aren’t playing as much sport as they’d like.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about mental health?

One in four people will experience mental illness in their lives, costing the global economy an estimated $6 trillion by 2030.

Mental ill-health is the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people aged 10–24 years, contributing up to 45% of the overall burden of disease in this age-group. Yet globally, young people have the worst access to youth mental health care within the lifespan and across all the stages of illness (particularly during the early stages).

In response, the Forum has launched a global dialogue series to discuss the ideas, tools and architecture in which public and private stakeholders can build an ecosystem for health promotion and disease management on mental health.

One of the current key priorities is to support global efforts toward mental health outcomes – promoting key recommendations toward achieving the global targets on mental health, such as the WHO Knowledge-Action-Portal and the Countdown Global Mental Health

Read more about the work of our Platform for Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare, and contact us to get involved.

this chart shows the sports that people practise and playin a normal week
Fitness and running are the most commonly practised sports and activities. Image: IPSOS

Fitness was the most popular form of exercise – done by one in five adults each week, followed by running (19%), cycling (13%), soccer (10%) and swimming (9%).

Rugby and field and ice hockey were the sports played least – at just 1% – while more than a third of people don’t play any sport during the week.

Is there a fitness gender gap?

the number of exercise hours per week done by both men and women
Men play more sport than women on average each week. Image: IPSOS

Men spend 90 more minutes (on average) doing physical exercise than women each week, the survey found.

Men in the Netherlands are the most active, saying they spend 15.2 hours in a normal week doing physical exercise on average. Brazilian and Japanese men spend the least time on average per week (3.4 and 3.9 hours respectively).

Women in Germany are the most active, followed by Dutch and Romanian women. Italian, Brazilian and Japanese women report the lowest average time spent doing physical exercise per week. https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=facebook.com%2Fworldeconomicforum%2Fvideos%2F3-brilliant-ways-exercise-keeps-us-healthy-as-we-get-older%2F466700997882111&width=640&show_text=false&appId=1085482764806408&height=360

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Australia urged to evacuate offshore detainees amid widespread, acute mental distress

Any doubt?

From funders to partners: elevating community expertise to help communities thrive

German opposition win in Lower Saxony felt all over Europe

London is becoming the world’s first National Park City

Yemen consultations have started, insists top UN negotiator

Commission approves emergency measures to protect eastern Baltic cod

How data can help mining companies tackle their trust deficit

From drought to floods in Somalia; displacement and hunger worsen, says UN

From raised fists at the 1968 Olympics to taking the knee: A history of racial justice protests in sport

Will the European Court of Justice change data privacy laws to tackle terrorism?

This is how travel hotspots are fighting back against overtourism

Do all you can to resolve climate change ‘sticking points’ UN chief urges South-East Asian leaders, in Bali

Four lessons from Africa on building effective business ecosystems

Australian homes are turning to solar power in record numbers

European research priorities for 2021-2027 agreed with member states

Meeting the basic needs of our healthcare workers

Mental health: a medical school’s demand

Embracing the diversity in a multicultural city of Romania

The EU Commission lets money market funds continue the unholy game of banks

How the power of sport can bring us together and drive social justice

EU Blue Card: Commission welcomes political agreement on new rules for highly skilled migrant workers

Why building consumer trust is the key to unlocking AI’s true potential

Ukraine’s new political order not accepted in Crimea

Protecting European consumers: toys and cars on top of the list of dangerous products

This is how New York plans to end its car culture

Progress against torture in Afghan detention centres, but Government needs to do more, says UN report

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Mandatory food labelling Non-Vegetarian / Vegetarian / Vegan’ initiative’

Is South Korea set to lose from its FTA with the EU?

Anti-vaccers: does the empty can rattle the most?

The role of public affairs in student NGOs

Future Forces Forum: Prague will be hosting the most important project in the field of Defence and Security

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

Political power of women suffering ‘serious regression’, General Assembly President warns

7 top things to know about coronavirus today

How global trade can save lives and livelihoods – and help protect the planet

EU job-search aid worth €9.9 million for 1,858 former Air France workers

European Semester 2018 Spring Package: Commission issues recommendations for Member States to achieve sustainable, inclusive and long-term growth

COVID-19: Save European culture and values, MEPs tell Commission

Children suffering ‘atrocities’ as number of countries in conflict hits new peak: UNICEF

We need to rethink ESG to ensure access to water and sanitation for all

International Court of Justice orders Pakistan to review death penalty for Indian accused of spying

Rise in violent conflict shows prevention ‘more necessary than ever’: UN chief

Top UN political official updates Security Council on Iran nuclear deal

It’s not summer holidays what lead to the bad August of the German economy

How can the world end viral hepatitis by 2030? 5 experts explain

How to talk about climate change: 5 tips from the front lines

Failure to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia is a mistake

Myanmar doing too little to ensure displaced Rohingya return: UN refugee agency chief

Further reforms in Sweden can drive growth, competitiveness and social cohesion

EU-UK relations: solutions found to help implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

Statistics show the ugly face of youth training schemes

Croatian Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

Media and entertainment in flux: it’s time for the close-up

5 droughts that changed human history

Are the G20 leaders ready to curb corporate tax-avoidance?

European Youth, quo vadis?

China is the first non-EU country to invest in Europe’s €315 billion Plan

EU institutions agree on priorities for coming years: A common agenda for our recovery and renewed vitality

Coronavirus Global Response: EIB and Commission pledge additional €4.9 billion

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s