Exercise is good, exercising more is better. And: avoid sitting still. That is the recommendation of the Health Council of the Netherlands in order to prevent chronic disorders and premature death. The Netherlands are the top one cycling nation; 25% of all trips is made by bicycle. This factsheet shows more maps, facts and figures of cycling.

Approximately half of all Dutch people currently meet the exercise guidelines. In the case of some groups this percentage is slightly lower. These groups include people with a physical disability or chronic disorder. People with a lower level of education also exercise slightly less. These and other recent figures can be found at Sports and exercise in numbers. The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and other parties continually update these figures.

Popular sports

Walking and cycling help people comply with the exercise guidelines. Doing sport also helps of course. The number of Dutch people who engage in sport every week has been stable for years. The most popular sports are fitness, running and football. Unorganised sports (for example fitness and running) have become more popular in recent years. This means that more and more people tend to engage in sport without being involved in clubs. The challenge is to facilitate sports and exercise through the so-called 'exercise-friendly' organisation of the living environment. Nature in the immediate surroundings and the provision of sport facilities can also help.

New guidelines

Exercise is healthy for all age groups. According to the exercise guidelines adults should exercise fairly intensively for at least two and a half hours every week. This includes walking, cycling and leisurely swimming. The guideline for children is that they should exercise for at least one hour a day. Muscle and bone strengthening activities, such as strength training and fitness training, are recommended for both groups on two and three days per week respectively.

The more the better

Exercise lowers the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, symptoms of depression and - in the case of the elderly - broken bones. The more time people spend on exercise, the greater the effects. Step counters, apps and games give sports people an insight into their performance and fitness.

Sitting still for too long is not healthy. As yet there is no guideline with regard to sitting.

Negative effects

Sports injuries, the use of performance enhancing drugs and accidents are the negative effects of sport and exercise. Running, volleyball, outdoor football and combat sports are sports which are associated with a relatively large risk of injury.

Focus on sports in local policy

Sport is one of the core themes of municipal policy. That is primarily because of its social value. For example, municipalities want to use sport to increase health and social participation. The Sport Forecast provides leads for policy.

The National Sports Agreement

The National Sports Agreement has applied since 2019. It contains arrangements between parties involved in order to ensure.

  1. Inclusive sport
  2. Sustainable sports infrastructure
  3. Active sport and exercise providers
  4. Positive sports culture
  5. Enjoying exercise from an early age
  6. Elite sport inspires

The idea is that local parties will integrate these goals in regional and/or local agreements. For example, the municipality of Amsterdam is working on a project called 'The Moving City'. The national Bicycle Agenda was set up in 2017-2020 to encourage cycling.

An exercise-friendly environment

The Sports Agreement is intended to make neighbourhoods 'exercise-friendly' (subagreement 2; sustainable sports infrastructure). Do the surroundings encourage people to exercise and engage in sport? There is a big difference in the exercise-friendliness of municipalities. This is determined by public sports facilities, sport and play areas, routes and the amount of countryside. You can find out how your municipality scores on these points by consulting Sport on the Map.

Exercise sufficiently. Even walking or cycling to school, work or the shop can be beneficial. For cycling and walking routes consult our maps.

Are you looking for a sport which is suitable for you? If so, use the Sport Guide and find sports clubs in your neighbourhood.

How does your municipality score in terms of sports facilities and exercise-friendliness? You can find this by consulting 'Sport on the Map'. Possibilities for exercising in natural surroundings are presented on the website entitled 'In green spaces is better'. There you will also find an overview and personal stories about the possible added value of exercising in green spaces compared to exercising indoors.