Why practicing sports and physical exercise is too expensive?

The Ministry of Education and Culture has called upon a working group to solve whether or not practicing sports and physical exercise is too expensive. To tackle the challenge critical research is needed to show that the prices are the primary determinant for physical activity.



The question on expensiveness of sports and physical exercise has been repeating in Finland during the past few months. The National Sports Forum in September concentrated on this topic and most of the attendees confirmed when asked that the sporting costs have, indeed, exceeded limits of tolerance. Some people claim that the costs have become so high that not all young or even older people cannot partake activities they would like to. This is a very unhappy situation to surprisingly many people who would exercise more if they had resources to do so. However, this may be true or not. Exercise in general is not hindered by the lack of money. At least when one’s healthy situation is normal in the absence of trauma or any other malfunction. You just put your shoes on and start walking!

The dialog is somehow eased into a situation where one side of the opinion is firmly of the view that the sport and exercise has become too expensive to practice in a way one would wish to. On the other side, there is a strong opinion that the money is not and never was an obstacle to physical activity. It is only a question of one’s own will and imagination to find a way to keep oneself physically fit and well. In Finland we certainly understand that the situation is not so black and white. The costs of participating organized activities of sporting clubs or private sports services have increased year after year. And this may not be a concern of Finland only.

To find solutions out of the problem the Ministry of Education and Culture has called upon a working group to tackle the challenge. First we need to know what has happened during the past ten years. Kimmo Suomi and his co-workers (2012) observed that “among socioeconomic classes, available time and physical demanding work conditions resulted to be relatively more associated to the participation in physical activities than other factors. In addition, the results did not support those studies indicating that upper employees would practice more physical activity than lower employees.”

Suomi et al. (2012) observed further that “in contrary to the situation ten years ago, high-income groups practiced physical activity the most and were also the greatest consuming groups of all kinds of sport commodities. Respectively, high-income groups also tend to spent more money on physical activity than low income groups than before.” The role of income obviously has to do with the choice of physical activity domain and the Use of chargeable sport facilities. However, the picture is not so clear when asking whether the sport activities in general are too expensive or even cheap.

The final question has been posed by the State Sports Administration and will still remain unanswered. Why practicing sports and physical exercise is so expensive? The working group has to realize that prices alone cannot fully determine the demand for physical activity. And especially that there is a severe lack of scientific evidence from intervention studies to show that the prices could be the primary determinant for physical activity.



Suomi Kimmo, Sjöholm Kari, Matilainen Pertti, Glan Virva, Nuutinen Laura, Myllylä Susanna, Pavelka Béla, Vettenranta Jouni, Vehkakoski Kirsi and Lee Anna, 2012. Liikuntapaikkapalvelut ja väestön tasa-arvo - Seurantatutkimus liikuntapaikkapalveluiden muutoksista 1998–2009. Opetus- ja kulttuuriministeriön kustantama julkaisu. Kopijyvä, 2012.


Text by Kari L Keskinen

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