Czechs are becoming increasingly unfit, the Czech Republic pays an extra CZK 158 billion a year for healthcare

  • 21
  • 2

According to the MultiSport Index survey, one-third of Czechs do not do any sport at all. The number of nonathletes in the Czech Republic is growing, and the country pays more than CZK 526 billion a year in healthcare costs as a result. Up to 30% could be saved if people exercised more. The most significant barriers for people are lack of willpower and time, and the situation is exacerbated by the rising cost of sports facilities due to energy prices. On the other hand, more and more Czechs are exercising to improve their mental health and reduce stress. 

The NMS agency has conducted the MultiSport Index survey since 2019, and today MultiSport presented its results to the public for the first time at a joint press conference with experts from the 1st Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Physical Education and Sport of Charles University and the Czech Chamber of Fitness.

The number of nonathletes is growing 

Fifty-three per cent of Czechs exercise at least once a week, which is less than a year ago. On the other hand, the number of those who do not exercise at all has risen to 32%, two percentage points less than a year ago. While there has been a slight increase in the number of young sportspeople, there has been a significant increase in the number of people over 55 who do not exercise even once a month. The reason is, among others, the different effects of two years of the coronavirus pandemic.

“During the pandemic period, there was a slight increase in the number of people who exercised at least occasionally. In particular, there has been an increase in interest in activities that can be done at home – such as yoga or Pilates. Some of this trend has continued for younger people up to the age of 34, so they are now exercising more than before, even after the coronavirus crisis has passed. For the older part of the population, however, this was only a temporary fluctuation, and their sporting habits from the pandemic period, unfortunately, did not last,” explains Miroslav Rech, CEO of MultiSport Benefit, which operates the popular MultiSport card.

The current economic situation could exacerbate the decline in the number of sportspeople. Already in 2021, 37% of respondents have seen an increase in the price of sports facilities. Due to high energy prices, all sports facilities in the MultiSport partner network and probably almost all in the Czech Republic will now increase or have already increased their prices. At the same time, the Czechs are also affected by high inflation, so they are looking for ways to save money.

“The loss of physical activity in the Czech Republic is a society-wide problem that could be exacerbated by the current situation. Exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, and a lack of it can lead to many health problems. Surveys also show that Czechs are trying to save money on food; unfortunately, this means eating less healthily in many cases. Combined with a reduction in physical activity, this can lead to an overall deterioration in the health of the Czech population,” warns nutrition therapist Šárka Knížková of the 1st Faculty of Medicine at Charles University.

The state pays for lack of physical activity 

The consequences of the decline in physical activity in the Czech Republic are very concrete. Total spending on health care reached CZK 526 billion in 2020, more than 9% of GDP. This amounts to over CZK 49 000 per citizen per year. Almost 90% of this amount will come from public sources, and households will pay more than CZK 60 billion per year.

“If Czechs exercised more, healthcare costs could be reduced by 25-30%, saving about CZK 150 billion. The Czech Republic has a very high per capita consumption of medicines and the highest number of doctor visits in Europe. More exercise could reduce the use of medicines by up to a third. Physical inactivity is also a major cause of a number of serious diseases. For example, according to a 2015 study, the risk of heart attack can be reduced by up to 35% if we exercise for ten minutes a day,” says Professor Václav Bunc from the Faculty of Physical Education and Sport at Charles University.

Healthcare costs are also rising as the number of people suffering from obesity in the Czech Republic has increased by around a fifth in the last 20 years. These people have up to an 80% chance of becoming type 2 diabetics and will suffer from hypertension, Bunc said. There are currently about one million type 2 diabetics in the Czech Republic.

According to MultiSport’s findings, it is not a concern for one’s health that motivates Czechs to exercise. In fact, fewer people are exercising to improve their fitness or look better. On the contrary, more and more Czechs are exercising to reduce stress or to feel better mentally. The most common reasons for not exercising are lack of time and motivation. A too-busy schedule is cited as an obstacle by 59% of respondents, and lack of willpower by one percentage point more.

“Promoting sport is extremely important at the moment. It is clear that if we skimp on health and exercise, we will pay dearly for it. That is why we are trying to motivate Czechs to exercise and, at the same time, support sports facilities so that they can survive the current difficult period and people will continue to have enough places to go to do sports. Whether for health reasons or just to improve their mood,” concludes Rech.