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The least and most athletic nations in Central Europe, ranked

Bratislava, Slovakia – Recently published EU statistics highlight huge differences in the amount of exercise Europeans get on a weekly basis and ranks the least and most athletic nations in Europe.

On average, around 28% of the European Union population aged 16 or more did not do any exercise at all outside of working hours. Roughly as many people exercised for up to three hours weekly (27%), and 45% worked out for more than three hours on a regular week.

Northern Europe by far the region getting the most physical exercise

When it comes to the share of the population performing some kind of physical activity outside of work, Romania (96%) topped the ranking, followed by Estonia (95%) Denmark (93%), the Netherlands (91%), Germany (88%) and Finland (87%). At the other end of the scope, Croatia (36%), Portugal (45%), Hungary and Cyprus (both 50%) stood out as the least sport-savvy nations in Europe.


But that doesn’t tell the whole story: for instance, although Romania shows the highest rate of exercise, most Romanians work out for less than 3 hours per week.

Taking into account the share of the population that exercises more than three hours weekly, the results are slightly different: Estonians supposedly exercise the longest and more frequently (84%), followed by Denmark, Slovakia (67% each), the Netherlands (66%), Sweden (65%), the U.K. (62%), Ireland (61%) and Finland (60%).

Hungary among the least athletic countries in Europe

On average, Central European nations exercise much less than their European neighbours.

Hungary is the least athletic country in Central Europe, and third least sporty nation in Europe. According to the study, roughly half of the population doesn’t do any exercise outside of work, compared to 20% who worked out up to three hours weekly and less than 30% for more than that.

In other words, Hungary may be one of the top-performing countries in the world during Olympic competitions, home-grown professional athletes seem to be an exception. This also explains why Hungary is one of the unhealthiest nations in Europe.

The Czech Republic isn’t faring very well either and remains below European average, with 39% of Czechs doing no exercise at all, 20% who worked out for up to 3 hours per week and 39% of the population for more than three hours. On the other hand, Czechs are far from being uninterested in sports in general, and rank among the most regular attendees of live sporting events, according to a previous study.

Poland is doing slightly better than its Czech and Hungarian neighbours: almost half of the population reportedly exercises for more than three hours, and 27% of Poles work out between one and three hours weekly.

And finally, Slovakia: Eurostat warns that the data for Slovakia has ‘low reliability’, so these statistics shouldn’t be taken at face-value – not that surprising given that, according to the study, 100% of the Slovak population exercises weekly (yeah, right…).

For lack of anything else, we can look at previous data from 2015, that suggested that less than 40% of the population worked out at least once a week… It seems highly unlikely that, in a few years, Slovaks went from being one of the least sporty nations in Europe to one of the most athletic populations in the world…

Note: Data for Estonia, Lithuania, the U.K. and Slovakia presented here have ‘low reliability’, according to Eurostat.