Cycling to Benefit from European Commission’s Health Initiative

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BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Commission has launched an new initiative that marks a big step forward on the way to get cycling recognized as a way to improve the physical well-being of Europeans.

Cycling to Benefit from European Commission’s Health Initiative
European Commission’s initiative recognizes that physical activity can contribute to improving people’s health and mental well-being and brings down health-care costs. - Photo EU

The Commission proposes to promote physical activity in Europe across all different policy sectors that could contribute to getting more Europeans moving, which also includes transport and mobility. The initiative also recognizes that physical activity can contribute to improving people’s mental well-being.

Health-enhancing physical activity

“Much more can be done through our policies to encourage people to get out of their chairs,” said Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner responsible for sport. “This initiative is an important milestone in the Commission’s efforts to promote health-enhancing physical activity in the EU.”

The Commission says the implementation of the measures could be funded from the Erasmus+ program and that funding could start as early as 2014 if the proposal is adopted.

What’s next?

The Commission document is a proposal for a Council Recommendation, legal acts that are not binding to EU member states. The proposal now has to be adopted by the Council of the European Union, where ministers from the member states are united. Once the proposal has passed that stage, which could be the case by the end of 2013,  it becomes part of EU legislation.

Facing horrific costs

“The initiative is an important step on the road to increasing physical activity. For the EU this is a critical area because we’re facing horrific costs, human and economic, if things don’t change,” says ECF policy officer Dr. Randy Rzewnicki. “On the other hand, our recent study on the economic benefits of cycling shows that the benefits are huge. Europeans who are cycling regularly are already saving the European health system more than € 120 billion a year.”

ECF and its partners

ECF and its partners ISCA and ‘Now We Move’ have been lobbying for an all-around approach to sport and exercise for a long time already. While policy makers have previously recognized that there is considerable potential for improving European citizens’ health in the transport sector, for example, there have been few initiatives to turn these insights into political action in the past.

What’s more, the initiative is based on the WHO guidelines for physical activity, which ECF has adopted and been promoting for many years.

“I’m particularly happy that the benefits to mental health are being cited in the proposal, as it shows that the European authorities understand how important physical activity is to general health and well-being,” says Dr. Randy Rzewnicki. “But it’s at least as important that the Commission proposes a truly cross-sector approach to physical activity.”

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