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EACEA National Policies Platform


7. Health and Well-Being

7.3 Sport, youth fitness and physical activity

Last update: 28 November 2023
On this page
  1. National strategy(ies)
  2. Promoting and supporting sport and physical activity among young people
  3. Physical education in schools
  4. Collaboration and partnerships

National strategy(ies)

There is no national strategy regarding the role of sport for young people and encouraging youth fitness and physical activity. However, there are general national policies regarding sport, fitness and physical activity. These are described in the policy document/letter sport: ‘Sport and physical activity in Olympic perspective’ and in the policy document ‘Health policy’, mentioned in section 7.2. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) is responsible for both documents.


Sport and physical activity in Olympic perspective

The policy letter ‘Sport and physical activity’ was published in 2011 and outlines the main focus points for sport and physical activity for the government period 2012–2017. The three main elements of this policy letter are: (a) sport and physical activity in the neighbourhood, (b) to excel in sport and (c) the Olympic ambition of the Netherlands.

a) Sport and physical activity in the neighbourhood means that all Dutch residents have a suitable sports and mobility offer available in their own neighbourhood, which is safe and accessible. To achieve this goal, the following points are worked on:

More sport and mobility opportunities available on location (schools, sport fields, work locations, health and welfare institutions);

  • Fewer obstacles to the use of accommodations and guidance;
  • More local human resources, that enhance sport associations and establish connections between sports and the neighbourhood, school, after-school care and well-being;
  • More public-private cooperation;
  • Setting up sports facilities at rehabilitation centres;
  • Paying attention to talent recognition.

b) The Dutch government supports the ambition of the sport sector to make the Netherlands one of the top 10 sporting countries in the world. This top 10 ambition is a guideline for top sport programmes that qualify for government funding. In the period 2012-2017, investments were made in:

  • Providing an income to (disabled) top athletes and high potentials;
  • More and better top sport medical assistance and better connections between education and the Centres for Top sport and Education (CTO’s);
  • Professionalization of top sporting events, more social and economic spin-off and more focus on event policy;
  • A proportional and effective anti-doping policy for top sport.

c) The government supports the Olympic ambition of the Netherlands and aims to organize the Olympic and the Paralympic Games in the Netherlands in 2028. The economic significance of sport is also mentioned here, meaning the ambition to further develop the economic and social values of sport. The government wants to strengthen the contribution of sport to the economy.

These main elements and key objectives of the policy paper link in with one guideline of the EU Physical Activity Guidelines, namely to encourage ‘sport for all’, which is in line with the key element sport and physical activity in the neighbourhood of the policy letter. There are no other clear connections between the policy objectives/strategies and the EU Physical Activity Guidelines.

No specific target groups within the Dutch population are mentioned. The Ministry of VWS is responsible for the policy documents, but there is no legal or administrative framework that regulates the efforts of different policy partners and investors in sport policy. Municipalities are primarily responsible for spatial planning and sports accommodations and take responsibility for stimulating sports and physical activity at local level. The implementation of the sport and physical activity policy may therefore vary between municipalities. The Ministry of VWS also invests in sports by funding programmes and initiatives.

It is not clear if monitoring of this policy letter takes place, since it is not mentioned in the document or anywhere else. There are also no major revisions/updates of the policy document. The period of the document ends this year. It is to be expected that when a new Cabinet has formed in the Netherlands, a new version of this document will be developed.


Sport in national document health policy

The national health policy is renewed every four years, published by the Ministry of VWS. The latest policy was published in 2011 and had a timeframe from 2011-2015. There is an update of the policy in the form of a letter from the Ministry of VWS to the House of Representatives. In this short letter the Ministry primarily proposed to continue the policy of 2011. That is why the policy from 2011-2015 regarding sport will be discussed here. Later in this section, major revisions/updates will be described.

There is only limited focus on sport in this health policy document. The small part about sport overlaps with the policy letter ‘sport and physical activity in Olympic perspective’, described above. The health policy document outlines that government wants all people to be able to play, move and play sport in their own neighbourhoods. It is the government’s aim to have a suitable, safe and accessible sports and mobility offer for every Dutch resident in their own neighbourhood. Government also states that it is important for municipalities to cooperate with local partners and to present neighbourhoods as good locations for play and sport. There is an emphasis on safe environments for playing sports and physical activity, where there is no place for intimidation, violence and vandalism. For more information, see the policy letter ‘sport and physical activity in Olympic perspective’.

The main goal of the national health policy fits in with the guideline ‘sport for all’ of the EU physical activity guidelines. No specific target groups are mentioned. Municipalities are an important partner for the government with regard to health policy. No monitoring, assessment or evaluation of this policy is available.

However, there is an update of the policy document running from 2016-2019. This is a short policy letter to the government, since positive trends in public health made it unnecessary to aim for major policy changes. In addition to the health policy from 2011-2015, in 2016 a new programme for sport injuries prevention was launched and the Dutch standard Healthy Movement, which describes how much time people should spend on physical activity, was updated.


Promoting and supporting sport and physical activity among young people


The Dutch government promotes a society in which sporting values are respected and  everyone has the chance to lead a healthy and active life. One of its main aims is to encourage healthy lifestyles in children, especially those growing up in low-income families.


Government Programme on sport and physical activity close to home

The government wants to make it easier for people to adopt an active and healthy lifestyle, for instance by providing sports facilities close to home or making physical activity easy to combine with work or school life. To this end, the government has set up the Programme on sport and physical activity close to home. This programme is aimed at all age categories. Its three main elements are:

  • Neighbourhood sport motivators

Neighbourhood sport motivators (previously known as ‘sport liaison officers’) are tasked with motivating people of all ages to take up sport or become more physically active. The motivators not only operate in the sports sector (e.g. at sport clubs), but also in the social sector (e.g. education, care institutions, or child care). Extra funding has been made available to municipal authorities for recruiting neighbourhood sport motivators. Municipalities will also contribute from their own funds. In 2015 371 Dutch municipalities were participating. The community sport motivators are  funded by the state for 40% and the other 60% is funded by the municipality or other local organizations. In the Netherlands there are approximately 4.800 (fulltime and part-time) community sport motivators.

  • Sport Impulse: grants for sport and exercise projects

Sport Impulse grants are intended for sports clubs, fitness centres and other sports providers to set up activity programmes for sedentary or low participation groups. The main requirement is that they work together with local neighbourhood partners such as schools, care institutions, childcare centres and the business community. The projects must be aimed at one of three target groups: sedentary people, overweight children, and youth in low-income neighbourhoods. The maximum grant period is two years. After that, the activity should continue without government funding.

  • Sharing expertise

There are several ways in which municipal authorities and sport providers can learn about motivating people to become more physically active, for instance regional meetings for sharing knowledge and the annual expertise day at national level. Central government has made agreements with the sport sector and municipal authorities about activities in the Programme.

The Programme was launched in 2012 and continued officially to the end of 2016, but seems not to have ended yet. The Ministry of VWS is responsible for this national programme. Partners are: Federation of Municipalities (VNG), Dutch Olympic Comity * Dutch Sport Federation (Nederlands Olympisch Comité * Nederlandse Sport Federatie, NOC*NSF), the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) and the Knowledge Centre for Sport Netherlands. The Ministry of VWS is responsible for monitoring and evaluation of the overall Programme. It monitors both the extent to which objectives have been achieved and the contribution of the various components of this programme, namely the neighbourhood sport motivators and the Sport Impulse. Monitoring of the various components of the programme is based on a limited number of indicators. The results have not been published yet.

The Programme has a connection with guideline 6 of the EU physical activity guidelines, which states that ‘particular attention should be given to projects and organisations which allow a maximum of people to engage in physical activity, regardless of their level of performance. The overall aim of the programme is to stimulate sports for everyone close to home. It also fits with guideline 7, which states that ‘appropriate management and evaluation mechanisms should be in place to ensure a follow-up that is in line with the objective of promoting ‘sport for all’.


Youth Sports Fund for low-income families

Everyone should be able to lead an active and healthy life, including children growing up in low-income families. To make this possible, the government supports the Youth Sports Fund, which helps children who would like to join a sports club but whose parents cannot afford the membership fees.

In order to give more children from low-income families an opportunity to be active in sport, the Ministry of VWS, together with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, in 2016 made a total of 5 million Euro available to the Youth Sports Fund for a period of 2 years. With this impulse from the government, the Youth Sports Fund aims to reach a total of 25,000 children from low-income families in two years by providing them with a sport membership. In addition, the local youth sports funds are strengthened. In 2016 the Youth Sports Fund offered 49,466 children a sport opportunity. The Youth Sports Fund foundation started in 2011 and has no end date. There is no information available about monitoring and evaluation. 

There is no connection with the EU Physical Activity Guidelines.



Turn-over is a sport programme that supports young people to go back to school or to enter the labour market, by way of sport. Over 70% of participants gets a job, goes back to school or starts attending vocational education. The programme has no end date and is implemented in several cities in the Netherlands.

On the website of the foundation Turn-Over, the policy plan for 2017 to 2019 is presented. The main goal is to provide professional guidance and intensive coaching, from the heart, to young people and (young) adults, to support them both physically and mentally, and motivate them in the next steps in their life, to do (volunteer) work and/or to achieve new competencies, and doing everything  that relates to or may be helpful for this.

Turn-Over wants to help youth and (young) adults who are vulnerable, at risk and have problems, adults to take next steps in their lives, for instance  (volunteer) work, school, or self-employed entrepreneurship by means of the proven successful Turn-Over prevention programme. The program is especially aimed at:

  • Young people on benefits;
  • Young people at risk of dropping out of school or work;
  • Young people who dropped out of school;
  • Vulnerable young people;
  • Young people without starting qualifications;
  • Young people who no longer want to/are able to/dare to go to school;
  • Young people with criminal behaviour.

The ambition of Turn-Over is to train youth and (young) adults from various target groups, with different backgrounds or issues, with the Turn-Over programme and methodology at national level, from 2019 onwards. The foundation receives funding from municipalities and (semi)governmental organizations, if the municipality or (semi)governmental organizations wish to implement the programme. The programme uses sport as a way to support vulnerable youth and help them take up their responsibilities and their lives.

There is no connection with the EU physical activity guidelines. There is no information available with regard to monitoring and evaluation.


Fit & Skilful at school (Fit & Vaardig op school)

This programme consists of physically active math and language classes for primary school children. The classes are given three times a week in school. Every lesson spends10 to 15 minutes on math and 10 to 15 minutes on language. The calculation and language level of the classes matches the Dutch computational and language methods (Grades 4, 5, 6 and 7 of primary school).

The digital school board plays an important role during these lessons, for the physical exercises and the language and calculation assignments are visualized on the digital school board. The pupils answer to a math or language assignment with a physical exercise . For example they spell a word by jumping with each pronounced letter or they answer to the calculation assignment 2x3 by jumping six times. in between the exercise movements they carry out basic movements. For example, they jog in place while they think about an answer.

During a two years experimental study into the effects of the Fit & Skilful programme, it became clear that pupils who participated in the Fit & Skilful lessons developed significantly  higher math skills than pupils in regular lessons. Language skills improved more than math skills, but there was no significant difference between groups until after two years. No further evaluations have been planned for the programme. No specific target groups are being addressed within the programme. The programme shows the relation between physical activity and learning, and thereby the importance of physical activity. There is no connection with the EU physical activity guidelines. Information about public funding is unknown.


Physical education in schools


Physical education and sport in schools in general and vocational education at upper secondary level  is incorporated in curricula. In 1995 the standards for psychical education in upper secondary education were formulated. Schools must provide physical education in every school year (independent of level) and spread it over the weeks in the school year. It should be "practical movement activities in such a form that the content meets the requirements in terms of quality, intensity and variety as laid down in core goals and exam programmes". Schools are free to determine how to implement this in contact time and lessons. Usually schools will have 2 to 3  physical education classes per week.

At the request of the National Society for Physical Education, the education inspectorate has outlined guidelines by type of school in 2014. If a school adheres to all the rules, the number of hours for physical education at school is average 2.5 for preparatory vocational secondary education (vmbo), 2.2 for senior general secondary education (havo) and 2 for university preparatory education (vwo), based on classes taking 50 minutes and 40 school weeks per academic year. The number of physical education classes in secondary school decreases in higher grades.

Research indicates the following average scheduled time in minutes per week for physical education:



Grade 1

Grade 2

Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 5

Grade 6

Vmbo bbl/kbl






Vmbo gl/tl





















Vmbo = Preparatory vocational secondary education

Bbl/kb = basic vocational track / advanced vocational track

Gl/tl = combined track / theoretical track

Havo = senior general secondary education

Vwo = university preparatory education


There is a national programme available to support starting teachers. This includes physical education teachers at secondary schools. This programme is one of the programmes to help solve the teacher shortage in secondary education. No other pedagogical tools and support are provided for teachers responsible for physical education in general secondary education. 

In secondary vocational education (Mbo) there are no compulsory weekly sports classes. Since the introduction of the Education and Vocational Education Actnix 18 in 1996, physical education and sport are no longer anchored in the curriculum. However, in 2008 government has established an incentive programme to promote that 5% of contact time consists of physical education and sport. In 2014 91% of secondary vocational education schools had a sport offer available for their students. To help teachers create a sports curriculum for Mbo students, the database 'Vitaal mbo' offers basic materials for creating a programme for sport, movement and vital citizenship for Mbo students.

Regarding tertiary education, no top-level curricula or policies exist. In general, there are no psychical education lessons in higher education (Hbo schools) and universities.  

There are no top-level guidelines, recommendations or large-scale initiatives on the inclusion of physical activities outside the curriculum but within the school day and on extracurricular sports activities in secondary education. There are some lower secondary education schools that offer  extra sports classes for interested students, but this happens at schools’ own initiative and no such initiatives are known at higher secondary level schools.


Collaboration and partnerships

There are no top-level initiatives that support collaboration and the formation of partnerships between schools, youth workers, health professionals and sport organizations in order to promote youth fitness and physical activity among young people. It is expected that schools, municipalities, youth workers, health professionals and sport organizations cooperate at local level, but those initiatives differ for every municipality.