Hungary level with Sweden, but has much room for sporting growth

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The percentage of Europeans who never exercise grew from 39% to 42% between 2009 and 2014, but although Hungary’s obesity indicators are still among the worst in the EU, there has been a significant 10% improvement in the number of Hungarians exercising at least five times a week, which puts the country at the forefront, alongside Sweden. These were just some of the statistics produced by the Hungarian Leisure Sport Association (MSZSZ), which, together with 2016 Olympic fencing silver medalist Géza Imre, 1996 Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Attila Czene and European judo champion Abigél Joó, have been inviting people to exercise together for the Second European Week of Sports, which runs September 10-18.

The goal is to motivate people to try out various sports, with the flagship event being the Coca Cola Wake Your Body Family Sports Festival on September 11, held at Kopaszi-gát in Budapest.  

According to Eurobarometer statistics, the majority of Europeans (59%) barely, or never exercise. To make things worse, almost two-thirds of respondents (69%) sit for between 2.5 and 8.5 hours a day, and in extreme cases even more.  

First and last – Hungarians perform surprisingly well 

Naturally, there are good examples: the physically most active Europeans live in the north: in Sweden 70% exercise at least once a week, while 68% do so in Denmark, 66% in Finland, and 58% in the Netherlands.  

Southern and southeastern EU members cluster at the end of the list: the largest proportion of people who never exercise are found in Bulgaria (78%), followed by Malta (75%), Portugal (64%), Romania and Italy (tied on 60%).  

Sweden is in the frontline for countries where people do sports at least five times a week (15%) and, perhaps surprisingly, Hungary is on the same level (together with Slovenia, Spain and Lithuania). There has also been a significant improvement in the number of Hungarians who do sports at least once a week, growing by 15% since 2009.  

Let’s walk outside 

It’s not all good news for Hungary, however; the country came last in terms of the number of people who said they walked at least 10 minutes at a time in the past week (12%, tied with Portugal). And while 72% of Finns said they do sports outdoors, only 16% of Hungarians do so.

The series of events that made up the 1st European Week of Sports last year attracted tens of thousands of participants in Hungary, and more than five million throughout 31 countries in Europe.  

“Our aim is to make as many people move as much as possible, not only throughout the week, but during the whole year. It is the responsibility of professional athletes as well to motivate people to exercise,” said Olympian Czene, president of the MSZSZ, at the press launch of the European Week of Sports. 

Fencer Imre, a three-time Olympic medalist, added that he considers everyone who manages to make time for sports in their everyday schedules a role model. Judoka Joó, who represented the Hungarian University Sports Federation, highlighted the importance of encountering different types of sports. “I find it crucial to organize events where people can try out various forms of exercise, so they can choose which one fits their lives better, which are the ones they could commit to on the long run.” 

For more information and the list of participating events, check out the website of the event, or their facebook page.

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