Background paper for municipal election goals
This document discusses OLL's solutions to the problem of not exercising enough in municipalities and provides background materials for the solutions for the 2021 municipal elections and municipal decision-makers.
Solution 1: Cycling conditions need to be developed and city bike networks need to be increased – cycling is great exercise for all residents, including students.
Cycling is an excellent form of exercise that makes it possible to maintain health and reduce the climate impact of commuting. The amount of cycling is proven to directly reduce healthcare costs ( see Swedish study ).
The Walking and Cycling Promotion Program sets a target to increase travel by cycling and walking by 30% by 2030. This will not be possible without active municipalities and guiding the activities of inhabitants, e.g. by means of city planning. The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom has distributed state subsidies to municipalities, which have been used to improve cycling networks.
The use of city bikes has almost doubled in a year, as more have been introduced for use by local residents. The effects of COVID-19 on the use of city bikes are not fully known, but the bikes have been increasingly popular. Bicycles are mainly used for everyday travel for work and leisure trips. Currently the use of city bikes mainly focuses on summer time, but municipalities can work to promote winter cycling, for example by setting ploughing priorities. For example, Oulu has successfully enabled winter cycling.
Cycling can be promoted in municipalities in many ways. When a municipality offers city bikes for a user fee but at the same time subsidises them, the number of potential users increases and the costs are not left to the municipality alone. You can read more about city bike systems and their implementation models in the Finnish Transport Agency's report and on the website of the network of cycling municipalities. It is possible to create a city bike system that has bike stations or does not have stations. City bikes are tax-free as an employee benefit, which also serves the business life of the area and thus makes the bikes more attractive to municipalities. You can get to know the city bike service providers and suppliers on the website of the network of cycling municipalities.
Municipalities have created various programs to promote cycling. For example, Espoo, Jyväskylä, Hämeenlinna and Kuopio. The network of cycling municipalities includes 127 member municipalities and 33 communities that promote cycling in their areas. You can read more about their cycling promotion programs in each municipality by clicking on the municipality of your choice. In addition, the Finnish Cyclists’ Federation promotes cycling throughout Finland through its own activities (the association's municipal election goals ). City bikes improve the conditions for cycling, for example in the centre of Helsinki.
Solution 2: Local sports facilities – in connection with campus areas and student housing, outdoor sports facilities must be built to serve both students and nearby residents.
The location of sports facilities has a significant impact on the accessibility of sports services. According to the results of the Finland Futures Research Centre’s STYLE project stakeholder workshops, the opportunities for low-threshold sports services and ‘casual exercise’ are considered limited. The urban environment, infrastructure and services are not planned with priority given to movement, exercise and recreational use. Strict norms, frameworks, territories and standards define planning, and there is little cooperation beyond basic administrative obligations. Favouring large units in placing services increases distances and makes it difficult to reach the services on foot or by bike.
For city dwellers, the biggest challenge of everyday exercise is the lack of pleasant and safe surroundings for physical exercise. The solution to this would be physical activity and land use planning. The design of different service networks is generally ‘top-down’, often marginalising the needs of the user and the involvement of physical activity stakeholders.
Based on the FINRISKI study coordinated by THL, the distribution of leisure physical exercise activities was as follows: 26% at home or outside close to home, 24% outdoors on the streets, walking and cycling paths and outdoor exercise areas, 36% outdoors in nature (close to home or holiday home) and 14% indoors. There is still a demand for local sports venues, as distances have a significant impact on the use of sports venues.
Municipalities can promote physical activity and the construction of sports facilities by making strategic choices and by means of land use planning. Indeed, 94% of municipalities have included this in their strategy. In addition, more than 80% of municipalities also have a physical exercise development plan or program and a walking and cycling development plan or program. Urban planning affects the health of residents and the exercise of sports. In addition, municipalities have their own reports on the physical exercise activities and the lack thereof of local residents (for example, in Vantaa ). Surveys often lack students as their own group, even though they have fewer resources at their disposal than the rest of the adult population. In addition, there are special needs groups in municipalities with different conditions for physical exercise.
Municipalities have their own physical exercise promotion programs. Some of them are aimed at the adult population, which often includes students (for example, Lappeenranta, Päijät-Häme and Jyväskylä ). In addition, other actors can provide sports services in co-operation with the municipality/city. In Lappeenranta, for example, with the help of the Student Housing Foundation for the Region of Lappeenranta (LOAS), an outdoor sports venue was built near the campus, which serves not only students but also area residents. A sand field serving outdoor sports was also added to the campus area. (See Kuntalehti article on outdoor sports venues in Lappeenranta, Kouvola and Jyväskylä.)
Physical exercise has a positive effect on students' well-being, resilience and progress in their studies. Physical exercise supports mental health and the prevention of disablement and exclusion, which are significant challenges for society in addition to the costs of the lack of physical exercise.
Solution 3: Municipalities should take students into account in the discounts of sports facilities and when renting space.
As a rule, students receive a discount of about 10–20% on, among other things, municipal sports services, swimming pools, private gyms and various sports courses. However, these services are often too expensive for the student to use and more expensive than, for example, the university sports services of Haaga-Helia, Laurea and Metropolia Zone sports services or MOVEO in Lappeenranta and Lahti. Discounts should be increased to 50% so that students have equal access to services and municipalities meet their legal obligations.
Several municipalities support sports clubs by providing sports venues for their use. However, the emphasis does not always serve students. In Vantaa, for example, the focus is on children and young people as well as seniors. The distribution principles are more varied for Oulu's sports facilities bookings. Distributing facility bookings is an affordable and effective way for the municipality to support university and student exercise.
Student discounts on municipally maintained sports services vary and are often difficult to find information on. For example, discount information for the sports services of the cities of Jyväskylä, Turku, Pori and Lappeenranta can be found, but they can be hard to find. Discounts vary significantly from about 10 to 50%, depending on the municipality, the type of physical exercise, and the time. Students' may receive less financial support from their family, for example, if they have moved to another location for their studies.
The student’s disposable income is small compared to the rest of the population. However, the costs of the lack of physical exercise also affect students. People should be provided with affordable sports and leisure opportunities to prevent healthcare costs and prolong their careers.
Sports services and facilities’ accessibility and equality ofstill need to be developed, and the accessibility of services can be further improved by lowering prices. Even if the income decreases per student, the income stream may increase when more people use the services.
The Finnish Students on the Move program is used in universities, but students are not on an equal footing with other students covered by the program. For example, in Vantaa, secondary school students are offered time slots for free access to gyms and swimming pools, and in Vaasa, free exercise groups for 13–29-year-olds. Similar practices should be promoted or introduced in other municipalities as well.
The lack of physical exercise costs society, as a whole, approximately EUR 3.5–7 billion. Health care costs in 2018 were about 21.5 billion, of which public funding accounted for 75.8%. About half of this is on the shoulders of the municipalities, as they are responsible for organising statutory health care. In 2019, municipalities spent an average of about EUR 3,490 per inhabitant on health care , compared to spending EUR 109 per inhabitant (2018) on physical exercise. By reducing morbidity, municipalities could reduce health care costs by EUR 80–200 / inhabitant. Exercise funding has an impact on the morbidity rate. In addition, the indirect benefits achieved, such as better working ability and well-being, generate indirect savings. The cost of incapacity for work is about 3–11% of the organisations' annual salaries. Most of this is based on absences due to musculoskeletal disorders.
The annual cost of mental health to society is approximately 6 billion, or about EUR 3,500 / employee per year in terms of, among other things, treatment costs and lost social income. Indeed, mental and behavioural disorders are the second most common cause of incapacity for work.
Workforce adequacy is becoming increasingly important as demographics change. This means longer careers and able-bodied workers. The total direct and indirect costs of lost labour input are approximately EUR 24.35–24.85 billion per year. Physical exercise aids in staying healthy and functional, and can help reduce and slow down the changes brought about by aging as well as prevent, treat and rehabilitate all major diseases that threaten one’s ability to work. (Physical exercise: Current care recommendation, 2016)
Municipalities must do their part to increase physical activity. The easiest way is to make physical exercise a strategic priority for a municipality or city.
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Page last updated 3.3.2021