7.3 Sport, youth fitness and physical activity
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Target 8 of the Austrian Health Targets enshrines the promotion of healthy, safe exercise and activity in everyday life through appropriate environments as a core goal of Austrian health policy. The National Health Targets are further detailed in Chapter 7.2.
A report of the working group published in 2015 states: ‘Regular physical activity has a fundamental and lasting positive influence on health. It prevents many chronic diseases and promotes mental and physical well-being. Sufficient physical activity is an indispensable component of health promotion from early childhood to old age. The goal is therefore to integrate sufficient physical activity into everyday life, for which the living environments (including infrastructure such as cycle paths, playgrounds, school routes and break rooms) must be designed in such a way that they enable and encourage physical activity. In addition to creating free spaces for safe movement in everyday life, movement competence and enjoyment of movement and sport should be promoted, especially in kindergartens and schools, in senior citizens' and nursing homes and in clubs. The needs of people with disabilities are also to be taken into account.’
The implementation of the Health Goal is structured according to three impact goals:
the target group-specific strengthening of physical activity competence
creating living environments that promote physical activity
establishing and expanding network structures to support physical activity in everyday life.
A first action monitoring report of the working group was published at the end of 2018 (Sozialministerium: Bewegung).
Health Strategy for Children and Young People (Kinder- und Jugendgesundheitsstrategie)
Aim 7 of the National Child and Youth Health Strategy fosters measures to promote exercise for children and young people. The Strategy is detailed in Chapter 7.1.
National Action Plan Physical Activity (Nationaler Aktionsplan Bewegung)
The first National Action Plan on Physical Activity has been developed by the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport (Bundesministerium für Kunst, Kultur, Öffentlichen Dienst und Sport) and the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (Bundesministerium für Soziales, Gesundheit, Pflege und Konsumentenschutz) and published in April 2013. The aim is to implement cross-sectoral measures that measurably increase awareness of the importance of physical activity and the physical activity behaviour of the population in accordance with the national physical activity recommendations.
In view of the data on the present situation of people’s physical activity in Austria, different target groups and various needs were identified. As people of all ages and social backgrounds can strongly profit from more physical activity, the National Action Plan intends to provide measures for everybody while taking into account that socioeconomic underprivileged groups show a worse health behaviour and thus profit most from changes. The Action Plan acts as a guiding principle, upon which measures are developed and implemented in order to improve behaviour related to physical activity and to cause a measurable change in society. The National Action Plan has been established in accordance with the EU Physical Activity Guidelines and promotes a cross-sectoral approach (health in all policies). A catalogue of targets with corresponding aims has been established.
- Overarching objectives
- Transport, environment, regional planning and building planning
- Working environment
- (Senior citizens)
The defined aims(corresponding to the EU Physical Activity Guidelines):
- Provide and convey information on health and physical activity
- Build network structures
- Build a network of sports organisations with nationwide, health orientated physical activity programmes
- Construct sport association structures that consider special target groups and support the building of social bonds and regular participation
- Physical activity orientated health promotion and a more health policy related topics prevention
- Improve knowledge regarding physical activity among health professionals
- Promote health orientated physical activity via social security institutions
- Motivate health professionals to increase their physical activity
- Motivate people to increase their physical activity via health professionals
- Create framework conditions for education facilities with a better physical activity orientation
- Ensure better quality and more physical activity in primary schools and secondary schools
- Further develop and implement school sports competitions and related events
Transport, environment, regional planning and building planning
- Increase the percentage of the active mobility of the population
- Enable environmentally acceptable physical activity in nature
- Pursue a 'strategy of short ways' and supply all populations groups with space for physical activity, games and sports
- Consider the physical activity aspect in object planning of all building forms
- Strengthen the role model function of public bodies regarding the promotion of physical activities
- Make physical activity a subject of discussion for employers and advocacy, and take steps to promote physical activity at the inter-company level
- Motivate unemployed people to do health effective activities
- Provide impulse for research
According to the Action Plan, a permanent monitoring system was to be established by 2013. This measure has not yet been implemented.
Measures by the Republic
- Many (youth) sports organisations are partially funded by the state and provide a large variety of offers and services for people of all age groups.
- Within the scope of the audit family-friendly municipality (familienfreundlichegemeinde), sports fields and playgrounds can be built for children and young people in order to promote their physical activity. This is an ongoing process initiated by the former Federal Ministry for Families and Youth.
- WISPOWO is a service point for winter sports weeks. The aim is to implement nationwide measures to push winter sports weeks.
- Project PASTA (Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches) aimed to integrate active mobility in the daily routine, to evaluate the effects on health and to develop recommendations for promotion on the basis of best practice examples. It ran in the period November 2013- October 2017 and was funded by the 7th EU framework programme.
Measures by the Federal States
Since, according to the general fallback clause in Article 15 of the Federal Constitution, matters pertaining to sports fall under the constitutional competence of the federal states, further strategies and measures have been developed and implemented at the federal state level. Thus, countless measures supporting both the national and the federal states' strategies are implemented at the federal state level but not further described. Exemplary projects:
- TWO AND MORE leisure time portal (ZWEI-UND-MEHR-Freizeitportal, Styria): The Styrian family pass encourages all families to engage in sportive, educational and cultural activities by offering financial reductions for around 900 regional businesses. Offers for example include swimming baths, climbing halls, and youth hostels in skiing and hiking areas.
- SKIKIDS(Lower Austria): In Lower Austria, children aged 5 - 10 (alpine skiing) and 8 - 12 (snowboarding) who are absolute beginners receive help in getting started in skiing. The campaign offers them a free 2-day beginner's course for skiing or snowboarding led by certified instructors, including lunch.
- Youth sports promotion (Jugendsportförderung, Tyrol): financially supports Tyrolean sports clubs with young athletes (up to the age of 18).
- Let's Go Graz (measure by the City of Graz, Styria): In 2021, the City of Graz has launched a 'year of sports' in order to activate and inspire all people living in the city, particulary children (as well as non-athletes and pensioners) for sports. The project shall raise awareness for the health aspect of sports, put clubs in the spotlight and create stronger inclusion through sport. It is promoted through local media and an app. Young people and their families can participate in challenges by counting their daily steps, are motivated to hike up the seven local hills with a stamp collection pass, to bike around the city, and to share pictures and videos of these experiences online.
Workshops and seminars on integration/team play
Teamplay ohne Abseits (teamplay without offside) is an offer by ZUSAMMEN.ÖSTERREICH in co-operation with the Austrian football association (Österreichischer Fussballbund, ÖFB). 50 professional football players with migration background visit football associations all over Austria as new integration ambassadors and share how they have successfully mastered their integration in Austria.
According to the Action Plan Physical Activity, Austria’s population is characterised by immigration and an increase in the share of older people. The strengthening of health competence and the mediation of knowledge suited for the respective target group are recent challenges for various institutions responsible for integration, education, senior citizens, sports, social issues or public health services. Nationwide leading events and the corresponding reports on public broadcasting (TV, radio) are communication tools for the various messages and target groups.
Organised sport and the regarding sports associations also provide excellent chances to include and integrate people due to their low access barriers. Sports associations provide chances to generate social capital for children, young people, and others by regular participation in physical activity programmes. The gender aspect is of specific importance. Measures therefore include:
- Identify which target groups to prioritise, with focus on socially disadvantaged and inactive target groups (e.g. migrants, people at risk of poverty, handicapped people).
- Funding priorities consider the promotion of integrative physical activity programmes with an ability to act as role model projects by facilitating the (first) access for disadvantaged people.
- Integration by demonstration: sport of handicapped people at major sports events.
Further model projects
These projects provide an inspiration for nation-wide, regional and local events:
- Fit for Austria-congress (Fit für Österreich-Kongress): The training events primarily offer the opportunity to learn about new contents and findings in the field of health-oriented sport from top speakers in working groups or workshops. They also provide platforms for exchanging ideas among each other.
- Day of Sport (Tag des Sports): Austria's biggest open-air sports event shall inspire (particularly young) people to engage in sports and showcast the variety of Austria’s sports associations. Previously touring through the regions, it is held in Vienna since 2016. In the years before the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of visitors, 122 sports associations and more than 400 successful athletes celebrated the day together.
- The Austrian Sport and Gymnastics Badge (Österreichische Sport- und Turnabzeichen)is awarded by the Federal Ministry of Sport in recognition of a wide range of sporting achievements. The achievements require good and versatile physical abilities, yet adhere to the sector of mass and health sports. Thus, all those interested in sports, even outside of top-level sports, have the opportunity to obtain state recognition for their sporting achievements.
- ‘Physically active together’ (www.gemeinsambewegen.at): Sports associations and municipalities provide opportunities for everyone to fulfill the health goal of 150 active minutes a week. Gemeinsambewegen promotes their offers. Since 2016, the initiative '50 days of exercise' has been run under the motto 'Fit together. Move with us!'. The goals for children and young people are elevated to physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day with at least moderate intensity, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening forms of exercise at least three days a week, and additional activities to improve coordination and maintain mobility.
- BSO-Sport-Award (BSO-Sport-Cristall): In representation of 50,000 people in the Austrian sport system, from 1998 to 2017 an award was given for special achievements.
Compulsory subject and daily routine
‘Physical Education and sports’ is a compulsory subject in all school types (except for part-time vocational school in the dual training system). From the 5th grade onwards, the subject is taught by specialized teachers in groups separated according to gender. However, joint sports activities for girls and boys in suitable teaching situations are enabled (co-education). The lessons can also be conducted across classes and across school levels. The subject is graded. In 2015, a daily sports routine has been implemented for all-day-schools.
All school curricular for physical education and sports are provided online (Alle Lehrpläne für "Bewegung und Sport" sowie für "Bewegungserziehung und Sportkunde"). Furthermore, the platform ‘Physical Education & Teachers Training in Austria’ (Plattform Bewegung und Sport in den Schulen Österreichs) by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research provides various information, services and teaching material online.
National Campaign 'Active School'
The health promotion campaign 'Active School' was started in 1989. 'Healthy & Happy' is provided for elementary schools and 'Fit & Smart' for Secondary I schools.
Healthy & Happy (Gesund und Munter)
These measures seeked to interrupt sedentary learning with activity breaks. Information booklets, class posters and a Happy Families game encouraged physical activity. The topics addressed by the material are among others the correct sitting posture, suitable school furniture, school bags and break organisation. A media collection for swim training, including folders, videos and CD-ROM was provided. A cooperation with the Austrian Youth Red Cross has been established and an activity diary for pupils has been developed (Bewegungstagebuch und LehrerInnen-Handbuch Gesund & Munter).
Fit and Smart (Klug und Fit)
The goal of this measure is to determine pupils’ postures and motoric skills through motoric and muscle function tests conducted with the assistance of school doctors. This determination of physical competition capability should serve as a foundation
- for the organisation and differentiation of teaching and practice in class,
- for advice and actions of all school partners, and
- for advice and motivation for individual pupils and parents on how deficits caused by targeted training can be caught up.
Short gymnastics integrated into all subjects (Kurzturnen)
The integration of short gymnastics units that loosen up the teaching work and increase the ability to concentrate is formulated in a legal framework (§17 School Teaching Act, Schulunterrichtsgesetz). Schools are provided with exercise material online, which enable all teachers to implement short gymnastics units in general subjects. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research supports the implementation with the platform ‘Vital4Brain’, which provides a movement programme for the classroom of 150 exercises that have been compiled into units according to the latest training science and neurobiological aspects in order to significantly improve the ability of pupils to remember and concentrate.
Additional elective subject
In addition to the compulsory subject ‘physical activity and sport’, schools can offer non-compulsory exercises in order to deepen, supplement or extend the learning content. A variety of contents is offered, whether ball games, jazz dance, climbing or rowing. According to a survey on the variety of non-compulsory exercises, around 44% of Austrian schools offer one or more non-binding exercises in the subject. Around 17 % of pupils make use of the offer, another 20% of pupils follows elective sport classes in preparation for school competitions (Schulsportinfo: Unterricht).
School sport weeks
Enhanced training is offered at winter sports weeks, summer sport weeks, health weeks, training weeks and competition weeks. These weeks are coordinated with the annual plan for the subject ‘physical activity and sport’ of the individual classes, with the school plan in this area as well as with any existing autonomous school profile. The contents are a supplement and extension of the subject and allow, above all, to get to know and experience different kinds of sports as a possibility for meaningful leisure activities (Schulsportinfo: Schulveranstaltungen).
School sports competitions
About 200,000 pupils actively take part in school sports competitions in 22 disciplines. Each year about 25 Federal School Sports Championships, more than 200 national championships and countless regional championships are staged.
Training of teachers at the national sport academies (Bundessportakademien)
Training for sports federations and umbrella organisations recognised by the Austrian federal sports authority takes place at the National Institutes for Physical Education for coaches, instructors, trainers and sports teachers in schools, the police force, justice and customs department.
The constitutional basis for the promotion of sports by the government is formed by the Federal Sports Promotion Law (Bundes-Sportförderungsgesetz). The law was first implemented in 1969 and last been updated in 2017 and will enter into force in January 2018.
Sports directorates in the Federal Provinces
Since, according to the fallback clause in Article 15 of the Federal Constitution (Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz), matters pertaining to sports fall under the constitutional competence of the Austrian federal states, nine regional sports directorates have been set up. The following goals were laid down:
- Intensifying physical activity-supporting everyday mobility of young people and creation of mobility spare time offers appropriate for youth within the scope of ‘climate-actively mobile’ (klimaaktiv mobil) - special funding for youth mobility projects of extracurricular youth work facilities
- Facilitation of access to sports associations for children and young people, where non-competitive offers are to be prioritised
The Austrian Sports Organization (Österreichischen Bundes-Sportorganisation, BSO) is a non-governmental umbrella organization in Austrian sports and coordinates all matters of sport with the responsible government agencies. The scope of activities of the BSO includes, among other tasks, the governance of political issues of sports, representation of sports concerns in federal institutions, the coordination of special education centres, education and training of instructors and trainers, development of sports projects, the assessment and revision of legal and administrative bills and acts, creation of databases and documentation and promotion of fairness in sports, with particular regard toward special measures against doping, violence and racism.
The BSO Sports Youth Programme is a platform for young people to make a positive contribution to the sporting community. Through workshops, events, publications and projects children and teenagers can learn about important themes and issues for youth in sports.
National network for the promotion of physical activities (Bundesweites Netzwerk zur Bewegungsförderung)
The national network for the promotion of physical activities is legally consolidated in the Federal Sports Promotion law (Bundes-Sportförderungsgesetz). It provides a nationwide organised coordination of health supporting sports offers. Its most important duties are the support and development of associations with regard to health-oriented sports offers, the coordination and support of different projects in the area of the physical activity. Fit Sport Austria is part of this network and provides a large variety of physical activity programmes for children and young people. It is subsidised by the federal sports-promotion fund.
Three large Austrian sports associations (ASKÖ, ASVÖ and Sportunion – which together hold more than 14,000 affiliated clubs in Austria) jointly founded Fit Sport Austria with the aim to foster mass and health sports. The guiding principle is ‘moving more together’ and the aim is to promote conscious exercise for all people in Austria. The measures of the three associations in the field of health-oriented sport are therefore bundled and promoted together. Thus, the sport and physical activity offers in Austria can be further developed and expanded. Fit Sport Austria offers a quality seal award and congresses for exercise instructors. Its ‘50 Days of Physical Activity’ campaign is coordinated as a measure within the framework of the National Action Plan on Physical Activity. Its funding is provided through the annual application for federal sports funding within the ‘Nationwide network for the Promotion of Physical Activity’ to the Bundes-Sport GmbH.
Youth organisations and youth work
Besides the professional open youth work facilities, many youth organisation members of the Federal Youth Council provide regular sports offers. A brief overview of the broad variety of sports offers which associations and clubs offer for young people in Austria – from mountaineering to water rescue and university sports classes – is provided on the Austrian Youth Portal (Jugendportal: Sport und Bewegung).
Austrian Institute for Sports Medicine (Österreichisches Institut für Sportmedizin)
The Institute helps athletes of all performance categories - from heart patients to olympic champions - in checking their health status and provides performance diagnostic data for training planning. It is supported by the University of Vienna, the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and the Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport.