Since the corona measures, 700,000 Dutch people have permanently stopped exercising regularly. People with lower or secondary education, in particular, have stopped exercising after corona. Young people between the ages of 13 and 18 also quit relatively often. This has emerged from a study by Kantar Public, commissioned by sports umbrella organization NOC*NSF.
“Their lives literally stood still during the corona period and we are now seeing the consequences of that,” says Marc van den Tweel, general manager of NOC*NSF, about young people between the ages of 13 and 18 who said goodbye to sports on a regular basis. ,,They do not find their way back to the sport. I am very concerned about that.”
According to Van den Tweel, many young people had hardly built up a sports routine when they had to stop again due to lockdowns. “Then it is extra difficult to return to the sport. They missed the ‘buddy feeling’, a social network. If you don’t feel like it, you go anyway, because they’re counting on you. If you do feel like exercising, it is even more fun because you see your familiar group again.”
There were immediate concerns
Due to corona measures and lockdowns, many sports clubs were temporarily closed, something that immediately caused a lot of concern. About a year after the last lockdown, it appears that many young people have still not returned to the sports associations.
In 2019 (the last year before corona), 75 percent of young people between the ages of 13 and 18 exercised at least once a week, while in 2022 that percentage was only 66 percent. In 2021, things got even worse at 61 percent, but many young people of this age have still dropped out. Young people in other age categories have taken up sports much more often; for example, the share of 5 to 12-year-olds is almost back to pre-corona levels.
NOC*NSF rejects the suggestion that young people visit fitness centers more often or train for themselves in some other way. The research includes all forms of sports, so not only sports at sports clubs, but also independent sports by running or training in a gym. Incidentally, not all sports are going badly; relatively many young people between the ages of 13 and 18 started playing basketball in 2022. “We will have to do everything we can to adapt the sports offer even more to the needs of this group.”
NOC*NSF thinks that young people can return to professionalism: volunteers cannot be everywhere all the time and have too little time for intensive cooperation with municipalities, for example. Furthermore, the sports umbrella believes that people who are short on cash can be better helped by helping them find the right support measures. NOC*NSF believes that more should be given to sports when building new residential areas. Nowadays, sports complexes can often be found on the edges of towns and villages, while every neighborhood should have a sports facility.
Higher educated people exercise more often
NOC*NSF also has concerns about the differences between education levels. Only highly educated Dutch people have resumed sports to the same extent after corona, they seem to have had little trouble with the corona measures.
People with lower or secondary education, on the other hand, still exercise less than before the lockdowns. According to NOC*NSF, a dichotomy is now emerging in society in the field of sports. “The sport stands for equality of opportunity. We are now seeing groups that are increasingly no longer participating, and who no longer experience the pleasure and positive effect of sport and exercise.”
In 2022, 45 percent of the lower-educated Dutch people exercised weekly, while before corona this was still 52 percent. The decrease was even greater among Dutch people with an intermediate level of education, from 64 percent to 56 percent.
Sports fun remains high
NOC*NSF has also noted positive findings. People who once exercise and exercise appreciate that very much. The average sports pleasure remains stable at a figure of 8.3 compared to the period before corona. Exercising together – specifically in associations – will increase from 8.4 in 2019 to 8.6 in 2022.
Utrecht is the province where most sports are played; there, 64 percent of the inhabitants exercise at least once a week. In Flevoland, 53 percent of residents exercise the least. Fitness is the most popular sport among men, while walking is the most popular sport among women. Swimming is the biggest sport among young people (5-12 years old); fitness is the biggest sport among young people between 13 and 18 years old. Football is the second sport in both youth categories.
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