The Power of the Outdoors

On 22 October Sport and Citizenship took part in the online event “The Power of Outdoors” organised within the framework of the SHARE initiative in collaboration with the European Network of Outdoor Sport (ENOS) and It’s Great Out There.  The event shed light on the added value of outdoor activities when it comes to sport, physical activities, and wellbeing, especially with regards to the recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak. 


Yves Le Lostecque (Head of Sport Unit, European Commission) opened the floor underlying achievements and future steps the Commission is willing to pursue in the near future- the pandemic showed fragilities of the sport sector in Europe, putting in great danger not only the economic sphere of sport but also the health and wellbeing of Europeans. However, it also reiterated the importance of sport and physical activity as a tool for tackling sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity. Thus, to stimulate the sport sector, the Commission is committed to soon releasing  a study on the economic impact of COVID-19. Le Lostecque envisaged an unprecedented role for sport in the plan against cancer. To conclude the “institutional introduction” the SHARE initiative will be extended by two years.

The role of the outdoors is more important than ever, especially within the greener transition the European Union is committing to nowadays. Interventions throughout the conference aimed to put on the table various benefits the combination of physical activitiy and outdoors may create.

Mike McClure (ENOS) and Margo de Lange (It’s Great Out There) presented the preliminary results of two studies conducted by the respective organisations, on the importance of physical activity and environment on the wellbeing of people (87% of interviewers affirm the essentiality of outdoor activities on people’s wellbeing): both studies will be released soon.

The introduction paved the way to the panel discussion: Diane Crone (Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences) moderated the panel with Alba Godfrey (EuroHealthNet), Melissa Desbois (Outdoor sports), Andrew Denton (Outdoor Industries Association), and Eki Karlsson ( Suomen Latu- The Outdoor Association of Finland). The panel touched upon some interesting reflections on the added-value of the outdoors when it comes to physical activities. The main points we can retain are:

  • Without doubt, the Green Deal opened up new possibilities and enhanced interest in the field of sustainable innovation. The importance of greener actions and facilities has grown over time, and therefore the combination of physical activity and the outdoors has gained a greater role in our society. This is why speakers agreed on the necessity for more investments in the sector and a clearer policy framework at the European level.
  • When it comes to decision making and the power to concretely influence the choices brought forward by decision-makers, physical activity remains a small concept with little power is Compared to bigger sport institutions such as FIFA or UEFA, the physical activity sector must lobby together to let its voice be heard at the European level. For this reason, conferences and gatherings like “The power of the outdoors” are useful tools to exchange views and influence policy.
  • To achieve a healthier and greener society, panelists pointed out the importance of an efficient balance between the promotion of sport and physical activity as two different domains that need specific attention. To do so, speakers underlined the essential role of the whole system that must not be limited to sport actors. With this aim they identified Educationas a key-area to promote this view: Alba Godfrey, for instance, proposed a nature-based programme for early ages at school as a concrete action for youngsters to raise awareness on the importance of the outdoors.

Arthur Le Gall (KEA) closed the conference with some final remarks on the role of the SHARE initiative and the importance of using this platform to boost the role of sport and physical activity at the local and regional level. 

Sport and Citizenship has always considered physical activity and the outdoors as paramount within its strategy: members of the SHARE initiative, we share its values and importance, notably through Promoting Active Cities Throughout Europe (PACTE) project. The latter has worked for almost 3 years to  to unlock the potential of cities and municipalities through physical activity. With these concrete actions, we hope more attention will be dedicated to physical activity in the near future, especially in light of the Green Deal and the new EU Work Plan on Sport.

Sport et citoyenneté