Swiss waistlines may be expanding, but a study has raised hope that the trend could soon be reversed.
There has been a slight rise in the number of Swiss becoming more active.
The Federal Office for Sport said on Thursday that while two-thirds of Swiss are still inactive, the number of people who do no exercise at all dropped from 39 per cent to 37 per cent between 1997 and 2002.
The news comes on the heels of a government report revealing the high price of caring for the growing number of overweight people in the country.
Last week, the Federal Health Office estimated that the 40 per cent of adults and 25 per cent of children who are considered overweight are costing the country SFr2.7 billion ($2.1 billion) a year (see related item).
The health office blamed the problem on a poor diet and lack of exercise.
But the sports office now sees a thin ray of light at the end of the tunnel.
Based on a survey into the health of the Swiss population conducted in 2002, the office found that the number of active people had grown slightly to 35.9 per cent compared with 64.1 per cent who exercise less than once a week.
The study found little difference between the sexes but a marked cultural divide.
The trend towards a more sedentary lifestyle has been “reversed” in German-speaking Switzerland, but has only been “halted” in the French- and Italian-speaking parts of the country.
And foreigners living in Switzerland, who account for about 20 per cent of the population, show a below average interest in exercise.
The study was broken down into several categories: those who consider themselves fit, exercise regularly, exercise occasionally, are mostly inactive, and completely inactive.
Those placing themselves in the first category, which means a form of endurance training (for example - jogging, cycling, swimming) at least three times a week, account for 27 per cent of the population.
The next largest group – 26 per cent - includes people who only exercise occasionally, meaning they fail to meet the basic requirements of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day.
The study shows that the Swiss government’s goal of stopping the trend towards inactive lifestyles is beginning to bear fruit.
The sports office launched a nationwide campaign in 1996, along with Swiss health insurance companies and Swiss Olympic, to encourage the Swiss to lead healthier lives.
The fitness study found that among the Swiss population:
27 per cent are very fit;
8.9 per cent exercise regularly;
25.6 per cent exercise occasionally;
19.1 per cent are mostly inactive;
19.4 per cent are completely inactive.