Dutch fitness declines during lockdown

23 April 2020


Since the start of the intelligent lockdown, the Dutch workforce has been exercising 40% less on average. Our mental fitness rating has decreased from a solid 7.5 to 6.9. So say the results of a survey among 1,000 Dutch workers commissioned by online pension administrator BeFrank. BeFrank is pleading for a reversal of this trend.

The Netherlands has been in lockdown since mid-March. Prime Minister Rutte announced last Tuesday that the rules are now being relaxed for daycares and primary schools. But the measures pertaining to businesses and hospitality establishments remain in full force and effect. Our gyms remain closed as well. Meanwhile it appears that the great majority of Dutch people have found alternatives for working on their physical and mental health. There is widespread biking, jogging and walking, and lots of people are taking online yoga or other exercise classes. Or so it appears.

Many people have stopped exercising
The reality, however, is different, according to the survey conducted by BeFrank. The respondents indicated that they used to exercise 4.5 hours per week, but now this number has plummeted by almost 2 hours down to 2.6 hours per week. Divided into the various categories, the ever-popular walking is the big winner. Previously, 40% of those surveyed opted for this form of exercise; today almost 60% walk regularly. Jan Hein Rhebergen, Commercial Director of BeFrank: ‘It’s nice to see that many people are looking for an alternative to get their exercise. But the other survey results show that the overall picture is far from rosy. We are dedicating 40% less time to exercise and the number of people who aren’t exercising at all has increased from 25% to 33%. That’s an increase from one-quarter to one-third.’

Physical and mental fitness on the decline
The survey has brought even more negative developments to light. Only a very small number of gym-goers and swimmers have sought out alternative activities now that gyms and swimming pools are closed. ‘Mental fitness has also been hard-hit,’ says Rhebergen, to his great regret. ‘The fact that people have rated the way they currently feel an average of 6.9 seems encouraging. Everyone is affected by the measures. Unfortunately, almost one-third (32%) of respondents rated their current state of mind a meagre 6 at most. Or a lot less.’

Younger generations and hospitality sector workers not doing so well
Focusing on the professional groups, it appears that hospitality sector workers are the hardest hit. Whereas previously 14% of these workers rated their mental fitness as inadequate, this number has now increased to 45%. The picture becomes even bleaker after a breakdown by age category. The under 30 age group has the lowest score: 26% of workers gave themselves a rating of ‘5’ or less. Until recently only 9% did so. ‘It’s no surprise that lots of people aren’t feeling great,’ says Rhebergen. ‘Everyone’s life has been turned upside down. No one has ever gone through this before, and we don’t know when everything will start getting back to normal. I myself am making sure I get enough exercise, and I sincerely hope that more people are doing the same. An online workout or a little jog, for example. All while adhering to the rules of the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment), of course. Even if it’s only a half an hour per day. This is the best way to clear your head, and to help us all be fit when the measures are relaxed.’

More facts

• 74% of people are exercising individually, without a trainer, exercise app or exercise podcast.
• 37% of people are exercising together with housemates.
• It goes without saying that dancing and team sports have come to a halt right now.

Financial and physical fitness
BeFrank is encouraging people to stay healthy and fit. The online pension administrator has developed the BeFit programme, which offers suggestions for relaxation, exercise, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Rhebergen: ‘We believe that physical fitness and financial fitness are closely connected. Both are important components of a good and healthy life.’ At you can take a simple test to find out the status of your physical health and financial health.

About the survey
BeFrank commissioned a survey that was conducted on 17-20 April 2020 via PanelWizard among 1,103 Dutch workers aged 25 years and older.

About BeFrank
BeFrank has been operating in the group pension market since 2011 and was the first Premium Pension Institution (PPI) to be established in the Netherlands. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the NN Group, BeFrank offers online pensions, clear communications and innovative services.

For more information contact Isabelle van Ast. E-mail:, Tel: +31 (0)20 5621118.