To mark World Health Day 2023, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is highlighting the role that sport and the Olympic Games can play in fostering healthy and active lives.

“Sports participation is an extremely low-cost, high-impact tool to foster active and healthy lives 365 days a year,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “The Olympic Movement is committed to promoting the value of sports participation for people of all ages and abilities, hence helping to shape a better world through sport.”

The undeniable benefits of sport and physical activity

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that children and teenagers engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, while adults should do at least 150 minutes throughout the week. But a 2022 report revealed that 81 per cent of adolescents and 27.5 per cent of adults are not meeting these targets.

In response, the IOC and WHO launched a joint programme in November 2022 that aims to strengthen the role of sport in contributing to the global target of a 15 per cent reduction in physical inactivity by 2030.

The three-year programme forms part of the IOC’s Olympism365 strategy, which is focused on strengthening the role of sport as an enabler for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and will see the IOC and WHO join forces to provide guidance, training and toolkits to both health and sports organisations to assist with the design and implementation of programmes aimed at helping more people to benefit from participating in community sport.

The joint initiative is a key part of the Sport, Health and Active Communities portfolio of Olympism365, which focuses on increasing people’s access to safe, inclusive and health-promoting sports participation opportunities. Through this portfolio, the IOC will work with partners to use sport to help improve people’s physical and mental health and well-being, while also supporting them to find a community through sport and connecting with Olympism.

Promoting healthy and active lives through the Olympic Games

The Olympic Games not only provide a platform for the world’s greatest athletes to compete on, they are also a catalyst for concrete initiatives that support and inspire the wider public to exercise more.

All Olympic Games organisers are required to deliver a long-term physical activity and sport for all programme in the host territory before, during and after the Olympic Games. Many host cities therefore use the Games as a catalyst to improve their facilities and increase access to both elite and recreational sport.

The Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Paris 2024 has grasped the challenge from the outset with its education programme, Generation 2024.

Created in partnership with the French Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sport, Generation 2024 aims to encourage young people to lead more active lives by participating in sport and physical activity.

By engaging the sports movement, the school and university sport federations, and the education community, the programme builds on the interest in the Olympic Games Paris 2024 by exposing children to sport in such a way that it becomes embedded in their lives from an early age.

In addition to the launch of a series of educational resources revolving around the Olympic Games and tools to encourage daily physical activity, one of its key initiatives has been the establishment of the Olympic and Paralympic Week (Semaine Olympique et Paralympique [SOP]), an annual event that seeks to promote participation in sport among young people and introduce sport as a tool for learning in school classrooms.

This year, more than one million children took part in the Olympic and Paralympic Week, held from 3 to 8 April in more than 7,000 schools throughout France and French overseas territories. The activities proposed focused primarily on the theme of inclusion, and involved more than 120 Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Generation 2024 has also resulted in the launch of the “30 minutes of physical activity per day” project, which complements traditional physical education lessons and represents a flexible addition to be practised at any point of the school day, at the discretion of the teacher.

To support these efforts, teachers are supplied with resources detailing fun physical exercises they can share with their classes, plus a kitbag of basic sports equipment. More than 10,000 kitbags, which include balls, hurdles and other multisport items, have already been distributed to schools in France. The initiative has now been extended nationwide, with the goal of reaching all French primary schools by the time the Olympic Games Paris 2024 begin.

Meanwhile, the Generation 2024 platform continues to evolve as it seeks to encourage an entire generation to get more involved in sports as the Games draw nearer.

Celebrating 75 years of WHO

World Health Day 2023 also marks the 75th anniversary of WHO. In 1948, countries of the world came together and founded WHO to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable – so that everyone, everywhere can attain the highest level of health and well-being.

On this occasion, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “We want to thank WHO for decades of partnership where we were promoting health and active lives for all people through physical activity and sport. The Olympic Movement will be at your side for the next 75 years and beyond.”

The IOC and WHO have worked together since 1984, leading to numerous joint initiatives to promote healthier lifestyles and grassroots sports activities, and fight physical inactivity through sport. In May 2020, the two organisations signed a new Cooperation Agreement and are notably tightening their collaboration for future Games, starting with Paris 2024, to address emerging issues, including the prevention of noncommunicable diseases.

Article taken from IOC Website