Can you find municipal candidates who promote physical activity in voting advice applications?

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We went over the questions of a few voting advice applications and looked at how important a role physical activity plays in them. We paid special attention to how physical activity among students was taken into account in the questions.

Before the municipal elections, many of us are looking for a suitable candidate with the help of voting advice applications and may even follow a panel debate or two. Voting advice applications include general questions and questions about municipal issues in each municipality. The questions deal extensively with the economy, transport and health care, but what about physical activity?

We went over four “big” voting advice applications for the municipal elections: the voting advice applications of the Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi, the newspapers Helsingin Sanomat and Iltalehti and the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yleisradio. We compared the general questions and how many of them discuss physical activity. To our disappointment we found that physical activity plays an insignificant role in these questions, not to mention physical activity among students.

Physical activity was not discussed at all in the voting advice application of Helsingin Sanomat. The voting advice applications of Yle and Iltalehti have one question about physical activity: Yle’s application asks about providing school sports facilities free of charge for leisure activities of people under 18 years, whereas Iltalehti’s application discusses building cycle paths instead of car lanes. Neither voting advice application raises the question of promoting physical activity among students.

Allianssi’s voting advice application is the only one of those studied to specifically discuss physical activity among students; there are three questions about physical activity and exercise. These questions highlight providing facilities for young people free of charge, free hobbies and promoting cycling.

Physical activity is an important municipal issue

Voting advice applications for the municipal elections hardly discuss physical activity and exercise, especially when it comes to students. However, concrete decisions to promote physical activity and exercise are made at municipal level. These decisions enable us to really promote the well-being of inhabitants and to guarantee that the municipality will have employees with ability to work in the future. The yearly costs of physical inactivity exceed 550 euros per inhabitant in municipalities.

Voters should be given the opportunity to familiarise themselves with candidates' thoughts on physical activity and exercise better than at present. Voting advice applications for the municipal elections should cover physical activity and exercise more extensively, as well as how to support these in municipalities. Easy ways to do this are to promote cycling and pedestrian traffic and the possibilities of municipalities to support ability to work through physical activity. It is precisely these decisions that the municipalities can make. When we talk about physical activity, we talk about high costs at municipal and state level, which is why physical activity should play a more important role in municipal and other elections.

So, where do you find candidates who promote physical activity? If the voting advice applications do not discuss the theme, voters need to be active and look for information in order to find panel debates on physical activity and the candidates interested in this topic. In order to make this easier, the Finnish Olympic Committee has launched a campaign called #liikuntaehdokas, which brings together municipal candidates with a positive attitude to physical activity. You will find them on social media with that hashtag. For more information about the campaign, please visit the Finnish Olympic Committee’s website (in Finnish and Swedish).

In the next elections, we will hopefully have more voting advice applications and election panel debates where physical activity and exercise play a more important role.

The picture is a collage of screenshots taken from the municipal election voting advice applications.

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