On the move – National Strategy for Physical Activity Promoting Health and Wellbeing 2020

The vision of the strategy up to the year 2020 is that Finns will pursue more physical activity and sit less during the course of their lives.

Too little physical activity and exercise among the population causes significant and increasing challenges to Finnish society. Sedentary lifestyle is a contributory factor to many common diseases, problems caused by ageing and the increased economic costs, and it weakens the productivity of labour and competitiveness, and increases inequalities in health and wellbeing between population groups. The favourable impacts of physical activity on obesity, type 2 diabetes, disorders of the musculoskeletal system and depression and on their prevention have been known for a long time.

Although people pursue fairly much physical activity during their leisure time, the rest of the day largely consists of sitting for long periods of time beginning from early childhood education and care, at school, work, institutions, means of transport and at home. Even in early childhood education and care children sit for 60 per cent of their time, and for adults the proportion is as much as 80 per cent. There is thus a great need for increasing physical activity and reducing sitting in Finnish society.

At the beginning of the 21st century an intensive and effective cross-sectorial cooperation has been achieved on actions to promote health-enhancing physical activity, and it will be intensified further as a result of the preparation of the present national strategy. The Government Resolutions on policies to develop health-enhancing physical activity (2002 and 2008) have served as a good basis for the national actions to promote health-enhancing physical activity. The aim of the preparation of the national strategy has been to achieve an even deeper and more concrete approach and a strong commitment among the stakeholders both during the work and in future.

The vision of the strategy up to the year 2020 is that Finns will pursue more physical activity and sit less during the course of their lives. The vision highlights the following elements:

1) The importance of exercise and physical activity as a basic prerequisite for individuals’ and society’s health, wellbeing and competitiveness is understood.

2) The different administrative branches and organizations will create the opportunities for a physically active life.

3) Promotion of physical activity is based on partnerships between stakeholders, effective structures and good leadership.

4) Factors contributory to gender equality and equal treatment will be identified and impacted on effectively.

5) Individuals will take advantage of the improved opportunities to increase their daily physical activity.

6) Finland will be an increasingly stronger model country for physical activity culture in Europe.


The following four guidelines have been chosen to promote physical activity that enhances people’s health and wellbeing:

Guideline 1. Reducing sitting in daily life in the course of life.

Guideline 2. Increasing physical activity in the course of life.

Guideline 3. Highlighting physical activity as a vital element in enhancing health and wellbeing, prevention and treatment of diseases and in rehabilitation.

Guideline 4. Strengthening the status of physical activity in Finnish society.

The guidelines are aimed at activation in particular of persons who take too little physical activity for their health and wellbeing and changing the operational culture of organizations so as to encourage people’s physical activity at the different stages of their lifespan. Furthermore, targeted actions will be aimed at such target groups whose physical inactivity we should be most concerned about and in regard to which development measures have been scarce. Such are children under school age and their families; children, young people and families with children in the most vulnerable socioeconomic position; young people at upper secondary level schools; students in vocational education; the ageing working population; and older people living at home.

Physical activity that enhances health and wellbeing needs to be increased and sedentary lifestyle reduced at all stages of people’s lifespan by means of the principle of integration, through the contribution of all the administrative branches and through partnerships. Society and its organizations and decision-makers should encourage, support and guide individuals and communities towards more active and healthy lifestyles. The methods include influencing knowledge and skills, the living environment, circumstances, structures and cultures.

The strategy describes the state of the population’s physical activity, the present actions and objectives for physical activity that enhances health and wellbeing as well as critical factors to achieve the objectives. It also suggests concrete actions for different stakeholders. Detailed measures are described in a separate action plan. The strategy also contains a description of the resources and monitoring of health-enhancing physical activity and exercise. The monitoring system includes a set of indicators that provide an overall view, as well as a comprehensive monitoring system integrated into the duty of the National Sports Council in accordance with the Sports Act (section 4) to assess the impact of the actions of the government in the field of physical activity and exercise.

Publications of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 2013:10. http://www.stm.fi/en/frontpage

Key words: Course of life, cross-sectorial, exercise, health, physical activity, principle of integration, wellbeing