Health: Svimez-Uisp research, ‘North / South gap on sports practice and ‘sedentary’ spends more’

Rome, March 23 The differences between northern and southern Italy are slowing down the spread of physical and sporting practice, with negative consequences for health, public spending and the way of life of the population, especially for the minors. In the Center and North, 42% of the adult population practice a sport regularly and 26.8% occasionally. In the South, the percentages are reversed: the majority practice sport occasionally (33.2%) while the minority practice it regularly (27.2%). This is what emerges from the research “The social and health cost of a sedentary lifestyle”, carried out by Svimez and Uisp, with the support of Sport e Salute SpA.

The research was presented today in Rome, in the conference room of the Olympic stadium, by Vito Cozzoli, president of Sport e Salute spa; Tiziano Pesce, national president of the Uisp; Luca Bianchi, director of Svimez. The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, Andrea Costa, participated. The gap, it is explained, is reflected in the percentage of sedentary people, with particular reference to minors: 15% in the Center-North and 22% in the Center-South. In the South, life expectancies decrease and remain 3 years lower than those of adults in the centre-north.

The research investigated the territorial differences in the practice of sport and the consequences on lifestyles, making it possible to deepen specific knowledge of the sector in order to multiply actions to promote physical activity and therefore the well-being of citizens. Nearly half of southerners do not practice any sport, compared to 30% in the Center and North. Moreover, barely 20% of the inhabitants of the South do sports continuously. The consequences of this state of affairs are obvious: 12.08% of adults in the South are obese compared to approximately 10% in the Center North, nearly one in three in the 6-17 age group is overweight in the South, against one in five boys in the Center and the North.

On average, those who practice sport regularly see their health expenditure decrease by 97 euros while those who do not practice sport see their health expenditure increase by 52 euros. Habits and lifestyles are also important in explaining family health expenditure: a smoker spends 87 euros more per year. The Covid crisis has worsened the situation, public sports facilities penalize users in the South, which is why structural interventions are necessary.

The research has studied the sports habits of Italians with the aim of verifying the relationship that exists between physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle, also with regard to supply and demand conditions in the different Italian regions. , with particular reference to the South.

The research also set itself the objective of estimating the economic impact of the phenomenon of physical inactivity on the national health system, through the use of statistical and econometric techniques. Finally, the differences in sporting skills between the South and the rest of the country were studied. In the spread of sports practice, socio-cultural inequalities also play a role. The attitude towards the practice of sport is not homogeneous in the different regions of the country, also due to the different availability of facilities and organized structures. The research studied the lifestyles and behaviors of the sample in order to dig deeper into the habits regarding the degree of activity and the sedentary lifestyle in Italy, in particular with regard to the changes and restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic last year.

26.2% of those questioned say they do not practice any sport. However, the sports practice of adults shows on the whole a certain homogeneity between the Centre-North and the South, compared to the sample of the under 16s where the greatest differences appear. Indeed, it is among the under 16s residing in the South that there is a considerable gap in the practice of competitive sports which is equal to 8.6% of the total under 16s questioned, three times less than in the Center and in the North (24.8%). Moreover, the rate of sedentary children and young people in the South is nearly 22% against 15% in the Centre-North. Finally, sports practice among minors appears to be much more sporadic in the South and in the Islands (24.2%) or even absent.

Among the other differences that stand out, there is that concerning the type of sports facility: in the northern regions more than one athlete in two uses a public and/or managed sports facility, in the south only 37.5% sports in a public establishment, while 62.5% can only practice sports in a private establishment.

A gap inevitably generated by a lower distribution of public sports facilities in the southern and island regions. If the analysis is carried out at regional level, it can be seen that the supply of public sports facilities is more lacking in Sicily, where almost all (90%) practice sport in privately managed facilities. The regions with the lowest shares are Campania and Sicily with values ​​around 23%, followed by Calabria and Puglia where sports in public facilities account for around 30%.

The South is the mirror image of the Centre-North: in the southern regions are in fact the lowest peaks of continuous sporting activity and the highest peaks of sedentariness. The sedentary are concentrated mainly in Sicily (55.22%) and Molise (53.04%), but also in Basilicata, Calabria and Campania, there are inactive shares of more than half of the population (just over 51%), values ​​that fall instead in Puglia (43.68%) and in Abruzzo and Sardinia. In some regions, such as Campania, this is compounded by a smoking rate of 28.36%, higher than the average for the south (26.25%).

The research underlines the extent to which investments in sports equipment appear to be crucial to promote the practice of sport, in particular for categories of fragile subjects and those at risk of social exclusion, and to encourage and support the practice of sport by the younger target group of children. and teenagers. In this sense, the involvement of local authorities and territorial branches of sports associations appears fundamental both for the implementation of these regional programs and the implementation of specific actions, and for the maintenance of existing and newly built equipment. .

Finally, it is precisely at the local level that it seems appropriate to activate a permanent network of listening and monitoring of the needs and local demand for sport, in particular of the most fragile categories, minors, the elderly, the disabled. What intervention policies does the Svimez, Uisp and Sport e Salute study propose? First, strengthening public intervention in the sport sector is fundamental to producing widespread social benefits for the community. And the same goes for the sustainability of investments in sports facilities, because the sports sector, especially when it comes to facilities, is capital-intensive and has the lowest rates of return in the economy. Italian.

Then, we must bet on the maintenance of the existing installations, which is a crucial factor for the supply of a quality service. The hope, especially after the pandemic, is that of a return to usual sports practices with a consequent increase in members and turnover in the sector. In addition, it is necessary to work so that the public intervention, from the resources of the PNRR, can give a new impetus to the sector, both to improve the state of psychophysical health of the community and to minimize unhealthy lifestyles, in particular among younger generations.

“The research carried out with Svimez and Uisp confirms the gap between physical activity in the North and the South – says Vito Cozzoli, president of Sport e Salute SpA – It is very important to have data to work on to fill the gap and implement actions that reverse course. As Sport and Health, we try every day with projects on school, on disadvantaged neighborhoods, on inclusion and with a new territorial model. Because sport is a right. Of everything”.

“Research demonstrates a correlation between active lifestyles and continuous physical and sports practice, with the possibility of containing health costs and gaining well-being – says Tiziano Pesce, National President of the Uisp – the motivation is to provide indications to public decision-makers and political decision-makers to encourage the planning of investments in social sport and for all and in basic sports equipment, with particular reference to the South. National Recovery and Resilience Plan represent a real opportunity”.

For the director of Svimez, Luca Bianchi, “The research clearly reveals the existence of territorial gaps in the dissemination of sport, with significant effects on the health especially of children in the South. It is crucial, especially for the South, to take full advantage of the opportunity of the resources allocated by the PNRR. This will not only make it possible to overcome the crisis in the sports sector exacerbated by the pandemic, but above all to reduce the inequalities between citizens and territories, exacerbated by the pandemic but already existing, in the aim of improving the state of psychophysical health of communities and jointly in the medium and long term to reduce the public and private costs associated with sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles”.

“Investing in sport means investing in our community – said the Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Health, Andrea Costa – On the part of politics there is an assumption of responsibility towards sport as a vector health. The pandemic emergency has strengthened us in this awareness. There is no sport without health: I collect the requests that emerge from this research. There is a need for a new and different awareness of politics to read physical practice, sport and better health. There is a need for specific interventions, beyond a necessary and better infrastructure of sports facilities, with particular reference to the South”.

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