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Obesity, nutrition and physical activity

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Obesity, nutrition and physical activity

In view of the worrying rise in obesity prevalence rates in the European Union (EU), particularly among children, the Council calls on the Member States to take action to promote healthy diets and physical activity.


Conclusions of the Employment, Social Policy, Heath and Consumer Affairs Council of 3 June 2005, Obesity, nutrition and physical activity [Not published in the Official Journal].


Tackling obesity

Obesity is a multi-causal condition, and tackling it requires a comprehensive preventive approach, including multi-stakeholder efforts at local, regional, national, European and global levels.

Promoting healthy diets and physical activity helps to reduce not only obesity but also the risks related to hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer. More generally, healthy diets and physical activity considerably improve the quality of life.

Physical activity is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. For this reason, learning to enjoy sport and physical activity at school and during leisure time, as well as starting education about healthy living at an early age, is of the utmost importance.


The Council calls upon the Member States and, where appropriate, the European Commission to conceive and implement initiatives aimed at promoting healthy diets and physical activity, including:

Healthy diets aiming at:

  • enabling citizens to make healthy dietary choices, and ensuring that healthy dietary options are available, affordable and accessible;
  • fostering citizens' knowledge on the relationship between diet and health, energy intake and output, on diets that lower the risk of chronic diseases, and on healthy choices of food items;
  • ensuring that consumers are not misled by advertising, marketing and promotion activities, and that especially the credulity of children and their limited experience with the media are not exploited.

Participation of all stakeholders in order to:

  • enable health professionals to give, on a routine basis, practical advice to patients and families on the benefits of optimal diets and increased levels of physical activity;
  • encourage stakeholders who are in a position to support the promotion of healthy diets (e.g. food producers, food processors, retailers, caterers) to take initiatives to this end.


Nutrition and physical activity should be incorporated into all relevant policies at local, regional, national and European levels, such as policies aimed at reducing the harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption.


Education plays an essential role in measures for combating obesity. Member States must therefore:

  • foster education on, and the supply of, healthy dietary choices at schools, and encourage children and adolescents to exercise on a daily basis;
  • develop nutrition and physical education activities for children as an integrated part of health education in general, which should also focus on issues such as combating smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and the use of drugs, as well as promote sexual health and mental health.

Other measures

The conclusions of the Council therefore also invite Member States to:

  • manage the evolution in healthy nutrition and physical activity in the population and develop research and scientific basis for actions in this area;
  • encourage employers to offer healthy choices at workplace canteens and to provide facilities which encourage the practice of physical activity;
  • foster the development of urban environments that are conducive to physical activity.


The rise in obesity prevalence rates throughout the EU has become a very worrying phenomenon. More and more children are now overweight or obese. The figures are alarming and the consequences no less so, as obesity goes hand in hand with an increase in cardiovascular problems and diabetes.

To fight against this danger, the Commission set up an EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health in March 2005. The objective of this initiative, which involves experts on both nutrition and physical exercise, is to tackle the growing phenomenon of obesity in Europe in order to curb this trend.


Conclusions of the Council and of the representatives of the governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, of 27 November 2012 - on promoting health-enhancing activity [Official Journal C 393 of 19.12.2012].

These findings advocate in particular a cross-sector approach covering all thematic areas related to the promotion of health-enhancing physical activity.

Council Recommendation of 26 November 2013 on promoting health-enhancing physical activities across sectors [Official Journal C 354 of 4.12.2013].

In this recommendation, the Council invites the Member States and the Commission respectively to:

  • the progressive development and implementation of national strategies and cross-sectoral policies aimed at HEPA promotion in line with national legislation and practice;
  • assist Member States in adopting national strategies, and promote the establishment and functioning of an HEPA monitoring framework.

Last updated: 06.05.2014