Are Norwegians less active than you think? 

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Are Norwegians less active than you think? 
Research has shown that the majority spend more than eight hours in Norway sat down. Pictured is a person in Norway hiking. Photo by Filip Toroński on Unsplash

Many hold the perception that Norwegians are ultra-active, outdoors-orientated people. However, recent research has found that the majority spend too long sitting down and may need more exercise.


With sayings like ut på tur aldri sur (out on a trip, never sour) and det finnes ikke dårlig vær bare dårlige klær (there are no bad clothes, only bad weather), many hold Norwegians up as some of the most physically fit and active people around. 

However, as many as 80 percent of Norwegians spend more than eight hours daily sitting down, a new survey from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) and the Norwegian Institute of Sports Studies (NIH). 

Of the vast majority who spend more than eight hours sitting down, only three out of ten meet the recommendations for physical activity. 

"The results from the new mapping of physical activity and time at rest show that there is still considerable potential to increase the time spent on physical activity in the Norwegian population, especially among the elderly," Ulf Ekelund, a professor at the NIH and researcher for the NIPH said of the survey results. 

Adults are recommended to have at least five hours of exercise a week if they spend more than eight hours a day sat down, according to recommendations introduced in 2015. 

Ekelund explained that too much time spent sitting down could have serious implications for one's health. 

"Sitting still a lot is not good for your health. Physical inactivity is an important risk factor for developing diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, but the positive thing is that if you are aware of sitting still and are physically active enough, the unfortunate consequences will be eliminated," he explained. 


Luckily, the five-hour target for those who sit down too long doesn't have to be reached through gruelling workouts. Instead, the target could be reached simply by being active in everyday life, such as climbing stairs, doing housework or running to catch the bus. 

The professor added that intensive workouts raising the heart rate could help cut the five-hour target in half. 

Has the perception of super-active Norwegians been shattered? 

Some 3,006 people aged between 20 and 80 participated in the research. They found that Norwegians walked an average of 8,000 steps per day. 

So where does this put them in terms of the rest of the world? Research from Stanford University in 2017 found that people in Hong Kong were the most physically active in the world, taking over 6,880 steps per day on average. 

When just measuring steps and based on the smaller sample size, this would make the survey's participants among the most active, on average, people on Earth. 


Although, Professor Jostein Steene-Johannesen at the NIH said that significant differences existed between the participants.

That's (average of 8,000 steps a day) good, but the difference between those who are very active and those who are not very active is big. Those who move little take an average of 2,000 steps a day, while those who move a lot clock in over 16,000 steps a day," Steene-Johannesen. 

Figures from Statistics Norway found that nearly 60 percent of those aged over 16 exercise in a team or alone several times a week. Its research found the biggest barriers to more exercise among those who trained less often were health limitations and a lack of time. 


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