Dutch people have around 42.5 hours of leisure time per week. They spend these on, for example, relaxing (2 hours per week), social contacts (8 hours) and going out (2 hours). We are only going to focus here on activities outside the home.
That means being active, or indeed relaxing, alone or with a group. Everyone makes their own choices when it comes to leisure time. On these pages we distinguish between Sport and exercise, Experience and play, Meeting and relaxing.
In recent years the provision of leisure time facilities has grown significantly. This is reflected in the use and the organisation of the living environment. For example more and more (sports) events are being organised in towns and cities. Large numbers of people visit the countryside in and around towns and cities. There is growing demand for all kinds of ways to spend leisure time in the living environment. Features of the living environment are playing an increasingly significant role in entertaining people.
Green spaces and health
Walking and cycling are in the top 3 popular activities in the Netherlands. We like to walk and cycle in the countryside. Spending leisure time in green spaces is good for your health. More 'healthy green spaces' need to be created in order to keep up with the growth and changing composition of the urban population. For example the number of elderly people is growing and they have more time for leisure activities. The Health Council of the Netherlands is therefore advocating more green spaces in and around towns and cities.
Green spaces offer opportunities for people to exercise, relax and meet each other. Adults are meant to exercise for at least two and a half hours per week and children for 1 hour per day, according to the new exercise guideline. Of course a bike ride and/or playing sports for an hour every week helps to achieve this goal. It can also help prevent obesity and chronic diseases. As far as children are concerned, green spaces also appear to be good for their development.
The way we actually spend our leisure time depends very much on the spirit of the times and personal wishes and circumstances. Elderly people will perhaps need benches to sit on as they make their way to the supermarket, while parents with children will be looking for safe play areas. Suitable facilities for leisure activities is important for our well-being and with that our health.
The government's role
The provision of facilities for leisure activities is largely a matter of supply and demand. Nevertheless the government also plays an important role, namely as the provider of public facilities and in terms of being jointly responsible for traffic infrastructure and spatial planning.
The provincial governments determine where new facilities for leisure activities are to be provided. Maintaining and developing the countryside is also one of their tasks. The provincial governments cooperate in this context with land management organisations such as the National Forest Service in the Netherlands and the Society for the Preservation of Nature in the Netherlands. Key figures relating to leisure time and nature, like those in The State of Utrecht, are used to develop policy. The 'Welcome to the Netherlands' website also provides an overview of the key figures.
The municipality is involved in events and hospitality as the licensing authority which has to assess safety and possible nuisance. Cities often regard events and other activities as an opportunity for promotion and to breathe new life into cultural heritage.
The provision of facilities for leisure activities
The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency believes that efficient use of the available space can improve the facilities provided . It is important that the parties involved coordinate their activities, as happens, for example, in the case of water recreation. The activities of various target groups also require coordination so that joggers, horse riders, cyclists and skaters do not come into conflict with each other. Mountain biking in the hills of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug is, for example, possible thanks to agreements between the park manager, the Utrechts Landschap nature organisation, the National Forest Service in the Netherlands and the national governing body for cycling. Vulnerable areas of nature and other users are taken into account when creating routes.
Engaging in leisure activities yourself
How do you score on the exercise guideline of the Health Council of the Netherlands? Visit the countryside to relax and exercise. Study the walking and cycling routes and maybe combine them with maps of quiet areas and monuments.
Entice people to engage in healthy leisure activities
As a municipality you can organise the living environment smartly in order to entice people to engage in healthy behaviour. It has been demonstrated that access to and the use of green spaces in the vicinity encourages people to exercise more and engage in activities which are less sedentary. The cycling policy knowledge centre provides inspiring examples of small-scale activities which may help to get more people walking or cycling.