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Status and contents of physical activity recommendations in European Union countries: a systematic comparative analysis

21 Feb 2020


We analysed the information on current national physical activity recommendations in all EU Member States provided by governments in a joint EU/WHO survey on the implementation status of the EU Council Recommendation on Health-Enhancing Physical Activity across Sectors.


Cross-sectional survey.


The representatives of the 28 EU Member State governments to the EU Physical Activity Focal Point Network.

Outcome measures

National recommendations on: (A) minimum frequency, duration, intensity and lengths of bouts of physical activity, (B) preventing inactivity or sedentary behaviour and (C) further recommendations for additional health benefits, obesity prevention and specific types of activity.


An official document could be located for 23 of the 28 EU Member States, while four are currently developing recommendations. For children and adolescents, most countries follow the 2010 WHO Global Recommendations for Physical Activity, but there are notable differences in the delimitation of age groups. 14 countries also followed WHO in their recommendations for adults, and 11 countries have additional advice on avoiding inactivity and sitting among adults. 18 Member States have recommendations for older adults, 12 of which follow WHO. Thirteen countries also address at least one special population (eg, pregnant women, people with disabilities and people with chronic diseases), but the level of detail varies substantially between countries.


The large majority of EU Member States either has physical activity recommendations in place or is in the process of developing them. There is a general tendency to use the WHO Global Recommendations as a basis, with the greatest variation observable for children and adolescents. Comparing results with a previous round of data collection shows that the number of EU countries with physical activity recommendations is increasing and that both special groups and sedentary behaviour have become more important in recent years.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open