7.3 Sport, youth fitness and physical activity
On this page
On this page
Understanding of sport
In Germany, sport is divided into two main areas: public sports administration (by the federal government, the federal states (Länder) and local communities) and self-governed sport (in clubs and associations). Clubs are the backbone of the gymnastics and sport movement. They provide the framework for practicing exercise under the best possible conditions. Germany has about 91,000 gymnastic and sports clubs with about 24 million members. Each branch of sport has its own umbrella association (federal associations, or Bundesfachverbände).
On its understanding of sport, the German Olympic Sports Confederation (Sportverständnis des Deutschen Olympischen Sportbundes, DOSB) says: “Sports clubs and associations are committed to humanist values and to fair play. Their sporting activities provide people with an opportunity for holistic physical and body-oriented development of their personality and strive for good physical, mental and social health. Health-oriented sport is a firm part of the member organisations' services. For children and young people, in particular, clubs provide a third, important pillar – alongside family and school – for learning social skills. In parallel, clubs and associations are dedicated to the extensive inclusion of physical activity, play and sport in education.”
The German constitution states that responsibilities are divided between the federal government and the federal states (Bundesländer), so the federal government's sports policy is oriented towards this structure. The government sees that its main priority is to fund elite sports in order to promote a positive image internationally. The Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (Bundesministerium des Innern, für Bau und Heimat) is responsible at the federal (national) level. Sports funding in schools and for the general public is the responsibility of the federal states and/or local communities.
National Action Plan IN FORM
The National Action Plan "IN FORM – Germany's national initiative to promote healthy diets and physical activity (Nationaler Aktionsplan "IN FORM – Deutschlands Initiative für gesunde Ernährung und mehr Bewegung) was set up by the federal government in 2008 to prevent poor diets, lack of physical activity, obesity and related diseases. Its goal is to bring about lasting improvements to eating and exercise habits in Germany. The federal government has since expanded the plan and is currently including additional initiatives. Specifically, the Action Plan focuses on the first 1,000 days of life, children and senior citizens. Promoting a healthy lifestyle is the joint goal of the federal government, the federal states and local communities. Policymakers, numerous stakeholders from the health sector, civil society, the economy and the media all support the National Action Plan. It has been extended for further development from 2021 and will include the results of evaluations, the requirements of the coalition agreement (19th legislative period) and the legal framework on which these are based, for example amendments to Book V of the Social Code (Fünftes Buch Sozialgesetzbuch) made with the Prevention Act (Präventionsgesetz) of 17 July 2015 (Federal Law Gazette [BGBl. I p. 1781]) and the Act on Good Early Child Education and Care (Gute-Kita-Gesetz). The Plan will also take account of aims shared with the German Sustainability Strategy (Deutsche Nachhaltigkeitsstrategie) regarding indicators of obesity in the area of Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Nachhaltigkeitsziel, SDG – "Health and Well-being") and the federal government's Climate Protection Programme 2030 (Klimaschutzprogramm). The COVID-19 pandemic is currently changing living conditions for everyone: school and recreational sports opportunities and out-of-home catering are severely restricted, and not all sections of the population have access to alternatives. Research projects aim to shed light on the medium and long-term effects of the pandemic on eating and exercise behaviour. They will also examine the impact of rapid developments in the digital sector.
In the future, the Action Plan will pay greater attention to other sections of the population that need special support (vulnerable groups): these include people with special needs, those in difficult life situations or with pre-existing illnesses, but also people whose health behaviour has been affected by the pandemic-related restrictions on movement and social contact.
Published in 2016, the National Recommendations for Physical Activity and Physical Activity Promotion(Nationale Empfehlungen für Bewegung und Bewegungsförderung) provided a scientific basis for the promotion of physical activity in different target groups in Germany as part of the Action Plan. The basic aim is that people now follow these recommendations in their everyday lives and that they are lastingly embedded in municipal structures and living environments. The Federal Centre for Health Education (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung, BZgA) will publish the key messages for the different target groups via various channels (print, online/Twitter, Facebook, Internet, etc.) and in this way make an important contribution to IN FORM.
The BZgA website www.kindergesundheit-info.de offers parents of young children and professional youth workers up-to-date, independent information relating to all aspects of children's health and development. Mobility and motor skills are two of the key issues that should be promoted in the first months of life.
The BZgA website www.uebergewicht-vorbeugen.de, which is also aimed at parents and youth work professionals, contains specific advice on how to include exercise in everyday family life in order to prevent obesity. Alongside short videos, leaflets and specialist publications, digital formats will show children, young people and their parents ways to make physical exercise part of everyday life, recreational activities and sport.
National prevention strategy
One important framework that supports the creation of healthy living conditions is the national prevention strategy (Nationale Präventionsstrategie). Specifically, this strategy helps providers of relevant living environments, such as child day-care facilities, schools, care homes, facilities for people with disabilities and companies, to develop quality community catering and promote physical activity with the prevention and health promotion measures of the social insurance agencies. The Action Plan supplements and supports the national prevention strategy with respect to the risk factors poor diet and lack of exercise. The federal states (Länder) and local authorities are especially important partners in this context. Based on the National Recommendations for Physical Activity and Physical Activity Promotion (Nationale Empfehlungen für Bewegung und Bewegungsförderung), the local conditions for physical activity and physical activity promotion are also strengthened.
Personal and team development with German Sports Youth (Deutsche Sportjugend, dsj)
The main aim of the development concept “Personal and Team Development in Sport for Children and Young People” (Förderkonzept “Persönlichkeits- und Teamentwicklung im Kinder- und Jugendsport”) is to systematically promote psychosocial skills (including confidence, ability to concentrate, team skills) which contribute to achievement potential in all types of sport.
The project helps member organisations of German Sports Youth (Deutsche Sportjugend, dsj) establish training programmes and competitive events. These are designed specifically to support young athletes’ personal development by teaching sports-related skills and much more. The model developed to promote psychosocial skills – and its implementation in specific individual sports – aims to give the youth organisations of the dsj’s umbrella associations the opportunity to use their core competencies to trigger the processes in children and young people that are generally associated with sports activities:
- strengthen social skills
- develop a realistic self-image
- improve teamwork
In November 2020, a revised set of guidelines for trainers and training supervisors (Arbeitshilfe für Trainer/-innen und Übungsleiter/innen) was published containing key objectives and personal and team development methods in sport. The djs has published a series of other resources to promote team building in sport.
The national school competition Youth Training for Olympia & Paralympics (Bundeswettbewerb der Schulen Jugend trainiert für Olympia & Paralympics) was launched in 1969. It is the biggest competition in Germany to promote extracurricular school sports. It currently covers five age groups and 19 disciplines – mainly separately for boys and girls. The German School Sports Foundation (Deutsche Schulsportstiftung) has been the sponsor and organiser of the nationwide school competition since 1999. The competition takes place every year.
Some examples from the federal states (Bundesländer)
Framework agreement on exercise, play and sport of the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg (Bewegung, Spiel und Sport im außerunterrichtlichen Schulsport und in der frühkindlichen Bildung (RV Sport) (PDF, 92,6 KB)
The Framework agreement between the Baden-Württemberg state sports association and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of Baden-Württemberg on exercise, play and sport in non-formal physical education and early childhood education (Rahmenvereinbarung zwischen Landessportverband Baden-Württemberg e.V. und Ministerium für Kultus, Jugend und Sport Baden-Württemberg über Bewegung, Spiel und Sport im außerunterrichtlichen Schulsport und in der frühkindlichen Bildung) was signed in April 2014 and is the result of many years of active cooperation between schools and sports clubs.
Voluntary Social Year in Sport and School (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr Sport und Schule)
The Voluntary Social Year in Sport and School (FSJ Sport und Schule) format initiated by the State Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (Kultusministerium) and the Sport in Schools Foundation (Stiftung Sport in der Schule) and developed together with Baden-Württemberg state sports association was piloted in the 2013/2014 academic year. Volunteers focus on extracurricular sports (exercise breaks; exercise, play and sport groups; school sports competitions etc.). The project became a permanent programme from the 2016/2017 school year on.
Partnership on health and physical education in Berlin
The accident insurance fund Unfallkasse Berlin, in partnership with Berlin Senate Department for Education, Youth and Science (Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Wissenschaft) published a guide called 'More courage – reasons not to fear physical education' (Mehr Mut! – Keine Angst im Schulsport (PDF, 2.7 MB) on health in and as a result of physical education. The guide tackles safety issues, the environment, nutrition, participation in and exemption from physical education classes, special weather conditions and physical resilience.
- North Rhine-Westphalia
Partnerships between schools, child day care centres and sports clubs in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW)
Afternoon exercise, play and sports groups at all-day schools promote personal development and the health of children and young people. The NRW state government is expanding the programme and strengthening the involvement of sports clubs in the school day. A framework agreement was signed on 30 August 2011 entitled ‘Exercise, play and sport in all-day schools and facilities' (Bewegung, Spiel und Sport in Ganztagsschulen und Ganztagsangeboten, PDF, 818 KB).
Programme: 1000 X 1000 – recognition for sports clubs (1000 X 1000 – Anerkennung für den Sportverein)
As part of a partnership with the North Rhine-Westphalia sports federation (Landessportbund NRW), the North Rhine-Westphalia State Ministry for Family Affairs, Children, Youth, Culture and Sport (Ministerium für Kinder, Familie, Flüchtlinge und Integration des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen) encourages sports clubs to get involved in physical education at all-day schools and child day care centres. Every year, 1 000 000 euros are made available to the programme from the federal state budget. The state-wide programme 'Promoting exercise, games and sport in all-day schools' (Bewegung, Spiel und Sport im Ganztag gemeinsam fördern) aims to strengthen partnerships between sports clubs and schools/child day care centres.
School/sports club tandems
Cooperation between physical education advisers and experts from city and regional sports associations (Stadt- und Kreissportbünde) brings schools and sports clubs closer together.
The set-up of adviser tandem teams is an important step towards establishing and supporting structures in schools and clubs across local communities. The North Rhine-Westphalia state sports federation (Landessportbund NRW) receives funding from the State Ministry and from the Child and Youth Plan of the federation (Kinder- und Jugendplan des Bundes) to set up expert positions in city and regional sports associations.
School and sport partnerships
Section 1 of the Act to promote sports and physical activity (Sportfördergesetz) also aims to strengthen partnerships between sports clubs and schools.
Partnerships with schools focus on the following key areas:
- Ongoing development of the elite sports schools
- More promotion of physical activity for individual pupils
- Stronger involvement in sports by pupils on a volunteer basis
Physical education assistant training
In the 2011/2012 school year, the Saxony-Anhalt state association of PE teachers (Sportlehrerverband Sachsen-Anhalt) launched an initiative to train school pupils as physical education assistants. They learn how to prepare and carry out school sports events with physical education teachers. Pupils get the opportunity to develop a sense of responsibility and their social skills. The training can also prepare pupils to enter instructor training and lay the foundation for involvement in volunteer work in the future.
Initiative: No child without sport (Kein Kind ohne Sport)
The Ministry of Interior Affairs, Rural Areas and Equality of Schleswig-Holstein (Ministerium für Inneres, ländliche Räume, Integration und Gleichstellung), together with Schleswig-Holstein Sports Youth (Sportjugend Schleswig-Holstein), launched a state-wide information and networking campaign called 'No child without sport' (Kein Kind ohne Sport). It aims to encourage sports clubs, local communities, schools and nursery schools to start new projects. The projects should help socially disadvantaged children and young people to access club sports.
The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK) is responsible for coordinating matters relating to school and university sports across all federal states and has set up its own committee for this purpose. In the federal states (Länder), responsibility for school and university sports lies with the Ministries of Education and Science. The Standing Conference of Ministers of Sports (Sportministerkonferenz, SMK) coordinates the interests of sports clubs and associations for the federal states. Some federal states combine the responsibilities for school and club and association sports in one ministry.
The federal states (Bundesländer) are responsible for school education in Germany. The result is that physical activity is integrated into formal education to different extents in each state. In primary and secondary schools, physical education is mandatory and takes up 3 to 5 hours of the weekly timetable. There are also a number of volunteer activities, such as the active structuring of school breaks or physical activity in all-day schools.
The Federal Youth Games (Bundesjugendspiele) are annual sports events for schools. They are mainly for years 1 to 6 and aim to introduce pupils to gymnastics, track and field, and swimming. They are funded by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend), the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz) and German Sports Youth (Deutsche Sportjugend).
The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz) has created a syllabus database. The database contains basic information on the syllabuses, such as school type and subject, as well as contact addresses for publishing houses or ministries and links to the full versions of the syllabuses if the state ministries of education, state institutes or publishers have published them online (some are subject to a charge).
Examples of initiatives and syllabuses in the federal states (Bundesländer)
Concept: School with a physical education profile (Schule mit sport- und bewegungserzieherischem Schwerpunkt) The school with a physical education profile initiative of the Baden-Württemberg State Ministry for Education, Youth and Sport (Ministerium für Kultus, Jugend und Sport) and the Baden-Württemberg State Institute for Physical Education, Art and Music in Schools (Landesinstitut für Schulsport, Schulkunst und Schulmusik) uses a range of ways to promote exercise and physical education in classes and everyday life in Baden-Württemberg's schools. The initiative stipulates at least 200 minutes of physical education per week, plus supplementary exercise programmes such as physical activities during breaks and in lessons.
So far, over 870 primary schools and primary classes at special education and advisory centres have been awarded the certificate "Primary school with a physical education profile' (Grundschule mit sport- und bewegungserzieherischem Schwerpunkt, GSB). Since the 2015/16 school year, GSB schools have been regularly recertified.
Initiative: Physical education mentor (Schülermentor/-in Sport) The physical education mentor initiative makes a valuable contribution to school life. Together with the state sports association and the various sports federations, about 20365 young people have been trained as physical education mentors by the end of the 2015/2016 school year. Once they successfully completed their training, the physical education mentors jointly lead and supervise groups as part of school projects, task forces, competitions, etc. with the help of an instructor. This gives young people the opportunity to get involved in challenging tasks from an early age and to take responsibility for themselves and for others. Experiences over the years have clearly shown that this approach is a useful addition to formal physical education and is valuable for encouraging young people to continue their volunteer commitments in later life.
Initiative: Fit for learning and life (Fit für Lernen und Leben)
Regional teams of sports specialists (Regionalteam Sport) in the state education authorities are made up of instructors who offer school-based further training for primary school teachers on 'Fit for learning and life'. This training explains the positive connections between exercise and sport on the one hand, and school learning success and socio-emotional development on the other.
The current physical education syllabus for primary schools, middle schools, secondary comprehensives, schools for children with learning difficulties, vocational colleges and grammar schools can be found on the website of the State Institute for School Quality and Education Research in Munich (Staatsinstitut für Schulqualität und Bildungsforschung München).
Physical education in upper secondary at grammar schools
The curriculum for all school pupils in years 11 and 12 includes physical education as a mandatory subject. Pupils with a special interest in physical education can choose sport as a practical written or practical oral university entrance qualification (Abitur) exam subject by attending an additional sports theory class. They can also attend physical education seminars as a main subject if offered by the school. The regulations on holding physical education lessons in years 11 and 12 (Durchführung des Sportunterrichts in den Jahrgangsstufen 11 und 12) are set out in a pronouncement dated 1 December 2008 (KWMBl ref. 1/2009; PDF, 130 KB).
Initiative: School in motion (Bewegte Schule)
The initiatives “Primary school in motion” and "School in motion” (Bewegte Grundschule and Bewegte Schule) aim to ensure that all schools make better allowance for children and young people's need for exercise and offer more physical activity programmes in lessons and during breaks. As physical education is the only subject to teach basic motor skills and abilities, the initiative wants schools to encourage pupils to get moving both in and out of class and provide other opportunities for physical activity.
The long-term goal of promoting physical activity in schools is to develop lasting attitudes to exercise in adolescents using a holistic educational approach to counteract the increasingly prevalent effects of sedentary lifestyles.
Information about the framework curriculum for physical education as a school subject in the different school years is available on the website of the Berlin Senate Department for Education, Youth and Science (Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Familie)
Physical education in Berlin schools includes a broad range of official school sports competitions in various fields, which all schools can take part in provided they meet the school year and competition class requirements.
The inclusion of physical activity in school life plays an important role in schools in Hesse. The field of 'School & health' (Schule & Gesundheit) covers a wide range of subjects relating to exercise and perception.
Successful examples of the practical implementation of exercise and perception concepts in school life are found on the homepage 'School & health'.
Hesse state sports association (Landessportbund Hessen e.V.), Hesse sports youth (Sportjugend Hessen e.V.), the Hessian Ministry of the Interior and Sports (Hessisches Ministerium des Inneren und für Sport) and the Hessian Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs (Hessisches Kultusministerium) have jointly developed concepts for all-day schools to give pupils adequate opportunity for physical activity. Sport and exercise are given high priority. One concept is the state programme 'Schools and sports clubs’ (Schule und Verein). As part of this programme, sports clubs partner with schools and offer opportunities for physical activity, e.g. in task forces.
- North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW):
Framework requirements for physical education in schools (1 December 2014) Rahmenvorgaben für den Schulsport (01.12.2014) (PDF, 436 KB)
An edict (Erlass) by the Ministries of School and Further Education (Ministerium für Schule und Weiterbildung) and for Family Affairs, Children, Youth, Culture and Sports (Ministerium für Familie, Kinder, Jugend, Kultur und Sport) of North Rhine-Westphalia dated 1 July 2012 governs quality development and support services in physical education in schools (Qualitätsentwicklung und Unterstützungsleistungen im Schulsport (PDF, 100 KB).
Auch im Schulsport Spitze − Initiativprogramm zur Stärkung des Schulsports in Nordrhein-Westfalen (PDF, 41,4 KB), a programme to strengthen school sports in that was launched on 23 April 2002 by the then state ministry for urban development, housing, culture and sports (Ministerium für Städtebau und Wohnen, Kultur und Sport) serves to ensure that an adequate amount of physical education remains on the core curriculum of schools. In addition, it foresees additional sports and exercise activities.
- Saxon State Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs, Division 32 (Sächsisches Staatsministerium für Kultus, Referat 32) The division's responsibilities include setting the content of physical education lessons and providing inter-regional professional support. It also looks after the state-wide organisation of extracurricular school sports and represents the Free State of Saxony nationwide in matters of physical education in schools.
- School sports experts at Saxon Education Agency (Sächsische Bildungsagentur) These experts provide professional regional support for physical education lessons and organise extracurricular school sports on a regional level.
Physical education coordinators These coordinators assist a clearly defined number of schools with extracurricular activities.
The administrative regulation Structure of School Sport (Struktur des Schulsport) is featured on the website of the Saxon State Chancellery (Sächsische Staatskanzlei).
Information about school sports competitions and activities is also available on the Saxon State Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs website.
Sport in vocational training
A federal working committee for sport in vocational training (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Sport in der beruflichen Bildung) has been set up. Its aim is to promote sport during vocational training in both formal and non-formal learning contexts. It also encourages collaboration between institutes and agencies responsible for sport.
The syllabuses of the vocational colleges can be found on the website of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz).
There are no further specific policy programmes or funding measures to create partnerships between formal education, non-formal education, health experts and sports associations at a national level other than those listed in the Youth Wiki chapter "Health and well-being: Sport, youth fitness and physical activity".