Cycling, Soccer, Zumba® Popular in the Netherlands

World Beat:

Obesity is a health challenge in the Netherlands, just as it is in other countries across the globe. Fifteen percent of adults cope with obesity and 1 in 6 children is obese, according to the Netherlands Instituut voor Sport en Bewegen (Netherlands Institute for Sport and Physical Activity, or NISB). The NISB advocates 30 minutes of activity a day, 5 days per week, but only 45%–60% of adults exercise that much. For children under 18 years, NISB advises 60 minutes of activity, 7 days per week, but only about one-third of Dutch children reach this health target.

To emphasize the importance of exercise for health, the national campaign “30minutenbewegen” promoted the 30-minute target in 2008. The NISB supported this program with mass media, a national hero on the poster, a special offer for newcomers to exercise and advertisements in local news outlets. In 2010, there is a strong focus and a campaign around cycling. Cycling is extremely popular in the Netherlands, so it’s an appealing way for people to reach the recommended 30 minutes of exercise.

The good news is that there are ample clubs to support people on their fitness and wellness journey. “In a small, high-density country like the Netherlands—you can travel in 3 hours from the north to the very south—you never have to travel far to reach a fitness or sports club,” says Resi Hoogendam, owner of Yuwa Sports in Den Haag, who has worked in the fitness industry for more than 25 years. “Judo and soccer are popular activities at the sports clubs, with the Netherlands being world famous for soccer. The sports clubs are located in the middle of each city or village, and they are meeting points for the inhabitants of that community. Therefore, the atmosphere is cozy and friendly. Ice skating is also very popular here.”

Some sports clubs, such as Yuwa Sports, are explicitly targeting the inactive market and offering activities to reach people of all ages. “Our members range in age from 4, a child doing judo, to 86, an active older adult doing qigong,” says Hoogendam. “They also range from the very fit to the handicapped exerciser.”

Group exercise classes that focus on fun and effective training are highly desired right now in the Netherlands. “The biggest trend at the moment is Zumba classes,” notes Hoogendam. “Circuit training is popular because of the social aspect. In addition, with the greater interest in functional training, exercisers are becoming increasingly interested in multifunctional equipment like the BOSU® Balance Trainer and the GRAVITYSystem. Mind-body fitness is still growing within fitness clubs and small, specialized mind-body studios. Personal training, however, has not caught on here. Why? Fitness club members receive help from fitness trainers as part of their membership, and one-on-one training is too expensive for most people. ”

What’s the forecast for fitness in the Netherlands in 2010? “I think there will be more and better choices in fitness in both the bigger multifunctional fitness clubs and the smaller, personalized clubs,” says Hoogendam.

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February 2010

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