Subject: health services, diseases control and prevention, physical inactivity

Addressing physical inactivity in Hong Kong

Overseas experience in promoting physical activity

Digital innovation in community-wide campaigns

Multi-sectoral approach to integrate physical activity into daily settings

Physical activity initiatives in response to COVID-19

Concluding remarks

  • Physical inactivity is a mounting public health concern that has warranted growing government attention and intervention in some places. Singapore has reenergised traditional physical activity campaigns with the aid of digital innovation. Some places like Finland and the UK have adopted a multi-sectoral approach through collaboration with various stakeholder groups including schools, businesses and local charities to integrate physical activity into people's daily lives. While COVID-19 has affected exercise routines, some places have experimented with new approaches, from supporting virtual events to issuing sports vouchers, to revive public interest in physical activity. These overseas examples may offer inspirations and ideas for Hong Kong in its bid to create healthy, physically active society.

Prepared by Jennifer LO
Research Office
Information Services Division
Legislative Council Secretariat
2 February 2021


1.Physical activity is defined as any form of body movement that uses energy, including activities undertaken while working, commuting, doing housework, exercising, etc.

2.According to WHO's recommendations for people aged 18-64, moderate activities can take the form of brisk walking and doing housework, while examples of vigorous activity include running and fast cycling. See WHO (2020b) and (2020c).

3.See WHO (2020a).

4.This excludes the time spent on sleeping. See CHP (2020).

5.There were at least two Council Questions about the issue being raised at the Council Meetings over the past few years. See GovHK (2017) and (2020a).

6.Examples are the Government's plan to promote cycling in new towns or new development areas, and the "Walk in HK" initiative to build a pedestrian-friendly environment via improvement in city planning and design.

7.These include a programme hiring retired athletes to promote sports in schools, as well as a scheme encouraging schools to hire out their facilities to external organizations for holding sports activities. In return, members of the school enjoy priority enrolment for a quarter of the programme spaces.

8.Hong Kong's school curriculum states that at least 5% of the total lesson time (i.e. about 80 minutes weekly) should be allocated for PE in primary and secondary levels. In 2017, WHO's recommendation (i.e. students aged five to 17 should have at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily) was further included as a direction for the curriculum, although schools were allowed to make adjustments based on students' learning needs. Some schools reportedly substituted PE lessons with tutorial classes and seminars. See Education Bureau (2017) and 青年創研庫(2016).

9.See CHP (2017) and (2020).

10.See CHP (2018).

11.In 2018, employees in Hong Kong worked 42 hours per week, more than some advanced economies including South Korea, Japan and the United States, except Singapore. For primary and secondary students, the average study time is about 50 hours for a five-day school week. See Legislative Council Secretariat (2018) and (2019).

12.See CHP (2018).

13.A local survey showed that respondents spent an average of 48 hours per week on using electronic devices for leisure, which was 44 times the amount of time spent on exercise. See Hong Kong Baptist University (2018).

14.See Hong Kong Productivity Council (2020).

15.Ibid and 星島日報(2018).

16.In 2019, about 20% of Singapore residents aged 18 to 74 had insufficient physical activity based on WHO recommendation. See Health Promotion Board (2019).

17.See Singapore Budget (2020).

18.Non-smartphone users may still use the fitness wristband and sync their fitness records with the help of family or friends using the "sync for friends" function via the mobile app. See Singapore Ministry of Health (2020).

19.Participants with daily step counts of 5 000-7 499, 7 500-9 999 and 10 000 or above can earn 10, 25 and 40 Healthpoints, respectively. During each challenge period, up to S$35 (HK$200) in vouchers can be earned. Participants hitting 10 000 steps a day and other daily goals are also eligible for lucky draws and other bonus rewards.

20.See British Journal of Sports Medicine (2019).

21.See Smart Nation Singapore (2020).

22.See Lancet Global Health (2018).

23.See WHO (2015) and British Journal of Sports Medicine (2017).

24.Examples include doing star jumps while reciting multiplication table and adding movement (e.g. squats, running in place, etc.) to lessons.

25.See Schools on the Move (2020).

26.For instance, an employee cycling to work is subject to an annual tax deduction of €85 (HK$771) from his/her taxable income. Alternatively, if one drives to work in private car, the relevant expenses are not tax-deductible unless specific conditions apply (e.g. no public transport is available, walking distance to the nearest bus stop is at least three kilometres, etc.). See Verohallinto (Finnish Tax Administration) (2020).

27.One way is for Finnish companies to enter into an agreement with a sports centre to pay for employees' self-selected sports activities. Employers may also issue vouchers worth up to €400 (HK$3,655) for an employee to use at a time and sports venue of his/her own choice.

28.Eligible sports activities should be directly related to the employees' physical fitness and health, not someone else's (e.g. swimming class for a family member). The rental and/or membership fee should also be linked to the sports activity itself (e.g. paddle used in kayaking). See Verohallinto (2021).

29.See World Economic Forum (2019).

30.Active travel means travelling by physically active means as opposed to more passive travel modes such as riding in motorised vehicles.

31.This fund forms part of the UK's strategy to make walking and cycling the default option for shorter journeys, or as part of a long journey, by 2040. See GovUK (2017).

32.For example, Living Streets collaborated with a fashion chain by introducing a so-called travel clinic, where staff could get consultation on how to identify walking opportunities in their daily routine. Staff opting for active travel were also rewarded with a daily £1 (HK$10) travel voucher for use in the fashion chain's shops. These efforts have yielded some success. It is estimated that 30% of the fashion chain's 4 000 staff at the head office and some branches have adopted active travel options every day. See UK Department for Transport (2017).

33.For instance, the Sport for All Day in 2020 went online with the webcast of physical fitness videos on the day the event was held. See GovHK (2020b).

34.See 臺灣教育部體育署:《國民體育季刊第203期第四十九卷第三期》,2020年.

35.See 臺灣教育部體育署:《運動產業紓困振興方案持續給力 拚經濟挺運動》,2020年.

36.Some examples are the Mt. Fuji International Marathon in Japan, Boston Marathon and other running challenges in the United States.

37.See Virgin Money London Marathon (2020).


Hong Kong

1.Centre for Health Protection. (2017) Report of Population Health Survey 2014/2015.

2.Centre for Health Protection. (2018) Towards 2025: Strategy and Action Plan to Prevent and Control Non-communicable Diseases in Hong Kong.

3.Centre for Health Protection. (2020) Report of Health Behaviour Survey 2018/19.

4.Education Bureau. (2017) Physical education: Key learning area curriculum guide (Primary 1-Secondary 6).

5.GovHK. (2017) LCQ9: Measures to promote exercise and health.

6.GovHK. (2020a) LCQ17: Physical activities for students.

7.GovHK. (2020b) Sport for All Day to go online.

8.Hong Kong Baptist University. (2018) Hong Kong World Milk Day "Hong Kong Family Health Survey 2018" Press Conference.

9.Hong Kong Productivity Council. (2020) HKPC Announces the Inaugural "Prudential Hong Kong Smart Health Action Index" at 49.8 - Room for Improvement in Technology Application and Personal Practice for Health Management.

10.Legislative Council Secretariat. (2018) Overall study hours and student well-bring in Hong Kong.

11.Legislative Council Secretariat. (2019) Working hours in Hong Kong.


13.《港人少運動 健康響警號》,《星島日報》,2018年1月15日。


14.British Journal of Sports Medicine. (2019) Bright spots, physical activity investments that work: National Steps Challenge, Singapore: a nationwide mHealth physical activity programme.

15.Health Promotion Board. (2019) National Population Health Survey 2019 Report.

16.Singapore Budget. (2020) Singapore Budget 2019.

17.Singapore Ministry of Health. (2020) National Steps Challenge.

18.Smart Nation Singapore. (2020) National Steps Challenge & the Healthy 365 app.


19.British Journal of Sports Medicine. (2017) Bright spots, physical activity investments that work: the Finnish Schools on the Move programme.

20.GovUK. (2017) £64 million government funding to encourage more cycling and walking to work.

21.Schools on the Move. (2020) About the programme.

22.UK Department for Transport. (2017) Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.

23.Verohallinto. (2020) Commuting expenses.

24.Verohallinto. (2021) Employee benefits in taxation.


Virgin Money London Marathon. (2020) The 40th race.

26.World Economic Forum. (2019) Finland and Uganda are the world's fittest countries.

27.World Health Organization. (2015) Finland physical activity factsheet.


28.Lancet Global Health. (2018) Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1.9 million participants.

29.World Health Organization. (2020a) Background of physical activity.

30.World Health Organization. (2020b) Physical activity and adults.

31.World Health Organization. (2020c) Physical inactivity: A global public health problem.


33.臺灣教育部體育署:《運動產業紓困振興方案持續給力 拚經濟挺運動》,2020年。

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