Football can change lives. Europeans have a strong relationship with football and to the clubs they follow. Each week, across Europe, around 20.2 million people, mostly men, attend matches in the top 50 leagues. They celebrate or despair as their club rises or falls through league tables; their allegiance to their team is often lifelong and cross-generational.   EuroFIT seeks to harness this devotion to improve the health of men around Europe.

EuroFIT’s overall aim is to establish, extend, promote and enhance the social partnerships which provide the setting for delivery of an innovative public health programme.  In short, the project will create a new social partnership between football clubs, fans, local resources, and researchers to address the problems of physical inactivity, sedentary behaviour, and poor diet.

Project Facts

Acronym: EuroFIT

Contract/Grant agreement number: 602170

EC contribution: 5,957,158.00€

Duration: 60 months

Starting date: 01/11/2013

EuroFIT Objectives

  • Use State of the Art Theory and Evidence

    To apply state-of-the-art theory and evidence on motivating and maintaining behavioural change to develop a technology-supported, culturally- and gender-sensitised lifestyle programme for men, to be delivered in top European football clubs.

  • Deliver EuroFIT in 15 Clubs

    To deliver the EuroFIT programme in 15 leading football clubs across Europe and evaluate it in a pragmatic randomised controlled trial.

  • Review and Evaluate

    To review and evaluate the programme in terms of experience of: a) its benefits (or harms) to participants; b) its benefits to families and wider social networks; and c) how best to refine the programme to make it most attractive to women, families and other groups.

  • Replication and Implementation

    To maximise the likely implementation of EuroFIT beyond the funded project by developing detailed, validated guidelines on replication and implementation.

Tackling the Issues

High levels of physical Inactivity, sedentary behaviour, and poor diets

In the WHO European Region physical inactivity (failure to meet current activity guidelines) accounts for around a million deaths per year (about 10% of the total), 8.3 million disability-adjusted life-years and causes 5.5% of the burden of disease from coronary heart disease, 6.8% from type 2 diabetes and 9.8% from colon cancer.  EuroFIT will design tailored fitness programs to encourage increased physical activity.

High levels of sedentary behaviour  – i.e. waking time spent sitting/reclining with low energy expenditure – are associated with adverse health outcomes and increased mortality. These associations are independent of levels of physical activity. Yet the health risks of high levels of sedentary time are rarely recognised and poorly understood by the general public.   EuroFIT will develop low cost sensors that will measure sedentary activity to provide real-time feedback and enhanced motivation for change.

High levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour cluster together with other risk factors for ill health such as poor diet and obesity. Being obese at age 40 reduces life expectancy by 5.8 years for men and overweight and obesity accounted for 4.8% of deaths worldwide in 2004 European prevalence of overweight and obesity in 2004 was 65%. EuroFIT will design tailored approaches to help participants eat healthier diets and achieve sustained weight loss.

Lack of involvement of men in socially disadvantaged groups

Health-damaging levels of physical inactivity, sedentary behaviour, obesity and poor diet do not occur equally across society. EuroFIT focuses on two aspects of lifestyle-related social disadvantage: gender and socio-economic status.

Men are less likely to engage in positive lifestyle change, representing only 10-30% of participants in current lifestyle change programmes.  EuroFIT has been specifically designed to engage men, and to provide an opportunity for greater participation by males from across Europe.

Current health promotion programmes are represented mainly by those with high levels of educational attainment, and often fail to tap into the social and cultural contexts of the lives of the wider population.  EuroFIT will change this by harnessing the already established loyalty and attachment many men feel towards their football clubs to encourage maximum participation across the socioeconomic spectrum.

Tools to change sedentary behaviour

As noted above, sedentary behaviour represents a significant health risk.  A key success factor for a programme to reduce sedentary time is a low-cost device is available that can accurately monitor both activity and sedentary behaviour, and provide real-time feedback for self-monitoring. In EuroFIT, we will do this by developing the new SitFIT device; SitFIT will be the world’s first, low-cost, self-monitoring, accurate sedentary behaviour sensor.