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interview


The EU Platform wants to see more action targeted at the ageing population during 2012


their country and make a real difference to people’s lives. “So it’s not just about the individual


action that each association brings, like EHFA for instance, but about combining the efforts of stakeholders into co-ordinated actions. In fact, we’ve already been looking with EHFA at ways in which we might be able to combine its actions with other stakeholders to increase its input. “EHFA does a lot of work in the area


of physical activity advocacy, and one of the actions it’s already supporting is in conjunction with the International Sport and Culture Association. They’re developing a big conference that brings together people from all over the world to discuss sport and physical activity issues and to exchange ideas, but also to bring in projects and best practice.”


activity to the fore Spanou continues: “In the first few years of the strategy, physical activity took a bit of a secondary role. But last year, following a mid-term progress report, we did what we called a


‘renewal of our commitment to fight obesity’ – a bit like within a marriage, when after a few years you renew your vows – and we proposed a renewed set of objectives. These renewed objectives included a greater emphasis on physical activity for the last three years of the strategy, because we saw a need for more action in that area. “Physical activity plays a huge role


in the fi ght against NCDs, but as I mentioned before, one in three Europeans now admits to being totally inactive – activity levels in the EU have been dropping dramatically. The fi tness industry is therefore a sector to which we inevitably need to turn.” So does the EU see the fi tness sector


as a credible partner? “Absolutely. For us, it’s one of our main stakeholders in the Platform and has increasing importance. Fitness is part of people’s lives – I think that’s a reality now – and we want it to take part in the action. “The more gyms can take a holistic


approach, including nutrition as well as fi tness, the better. The other important step the industry could take, from our


34


perspective, would be to better segment different types of fi tness for different groups of people – the aged population, younger people and so on. We’ve already announced through the Platform and the Member States that, for 2012, we’d like to see more action focused around the ageing population; 2012 is the European Year of Active Ageing. At an EU level, we’re working on how we can increase the number of healthy years a person lives. Physical activity will play an important role in this. “From an EU perspective, it’s


therefore time for the fi tness industry to acknowledge the difference between older people who exercise for health reasons, and younger people who exercise for fi tness. We need programmes that cater for the needs of older people – and importantly the industry also needs to make itself more accessible to this population group. Going out to where the people are – into the community, even into rural communities – will be imperative. Indeed, I believe local-based action is the most important element.”


action is welcome So if she were putting out a bid to Health Club Management readers, to encourage them to help bring about the commitments that the EU Platform requires, what would be her pitch? “I think the fi rst thing we should be


thinking about is improving people’s lives. When you set that as your


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objective, you need to go a bit further than just providing the right equipment and the right places. You need to look at making fi tness fun, creating something that’s appealing, something that shows people how it can make them happier. Because it’s not just about being healthier – it’s also about having a better life altogether. So I think that’s the fi rst role the fi tness industry has: to make physical activity appealing. “The second thing we’re calling for and


which, in my view, is very important is what we just discussed: accessibility. Don’t limit fi tness to the privileged population that has immediate access, but go where the population may have diffi culty fi nding activity options. “And then the third point is adapting


to the different target audiences, making sure everyone – from children to older people and the obese population – is properly catered for. The fi tness industry needs to bring in these people, make special adaptations for them and make fi tness a sustainable part of their lives. “Ultimately, the industry needs to


think in an ambitious manner. Anybody who wants to do something that’s ambitious and that has making a positive change as an objective should contact their national association and ask them to bring it in to the Platform as a possible action. All action is welcome.”


healthclub@leisuremedia.com kate cracknell


march 2012 © cybertrek 2012


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