A two-day Estonian Presidency conference: “Sport, education, university: joining efforts for athletes´ dual career and active societies” which concluded yesterday, 22 September in Tartu, gathered sports leaders, policymakers, athletes as well as representatives of international sports organisations and education experts from around the European Union. The first day of the conference was dedicated to the topic of athletes’ dual career in sports and education. On the last day, the focus was on sport and ways of increasing physical activity rates among the population.
From the point of view of health, development and wellbeing, physical activity is very important, however, societal developments have led to decreasing activity among the population. According to research conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), a third of adults in Europe are not physically active enough and as much as 70% of young people do not reach the physical activity recommendations set by WHO.*
According to the keynote speaker of the conference, president of the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA) Mogens Kirkeby, the impact of physical inactivity on the society is grave. “Insufficient physical activity is a serious problem: each year, around 500 000 people in the European Union die from its consequences and it costs circa 80 billion euros per year,” said Kirkeby. He went on to explain that insufficient physical activity, a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits are forming a real societal problem in Europe that negatively impacts the population’s health and wellbeing, the economy and health care systems. Kirkeby said that reaching solutions requires political decisions and effective cooperation between various fields of activities.
Minister of Culture Indrek Saar stated that promotion of physical activity among the population is one of the most important activities in sports for Estonia. Saar explained that although physical activity indicators have recently been improving, there is still room for improvement, since one out of five Estonians is not physically active,” said Saar. “It was a pleasure to see the European Commission announce the Tartu Call for a Healthy Lifestyle (PDF) at the seminar held at the Estonian National Museum on Friday. Similarly, at the Estonian Presidency sport conference that just wrapped up, we discussed how to promote more active lifestyles among people. The European Week of Sport that was officially opened in Tartu on Saturday is also a great way to promote physical activity, as it offers over 900 public sports events that allow anyone to find and get to know a sport that suits them,” said Saar.
“I believe that the steps we have taken in Estonia – the long-awaited law amendment that will allow employers to cover employee’s sport-related costs tax free up to 400 euros per year; an additional support mechanism for recreational activities that was implemented as of 1 September, which guarantees each child the opportunity to participate in an activity of their liking; additional funding to basic swimming lessons for children, new principles for teaching swimming and higher pay for young trainers – all these measures have been effective in reaching this goal,” said Saar. “I am convinced that the Presidency sports conference and other sport-related events over the past week help us take the physical activity topic further, in cooperation with the European Commission, the international sports movements and local governments,” confirmed Saar.
The conference, held on 21-22 September and organised by the Ministry of Culture within the framework of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, was also dedicated to the UNESCO International Day of University Sport, held on 20 September, and to the official launch of the III European Week of Sport at the Tähtvere sports park in Tartu on 23 September.
A recording of the conference is available for viewing HERE.
Undersecretary for sport
Ministry of Culture
* According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), adults aged 18-64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or at least 75 minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise per week. Also, the two can be combined. Aerobic exercise should be done for at least 10 minutes at a time.