The number of exercise races in Swedes is growing like never before, but in spite of that the general public's health isn’t improving. That’s because many Swedes in need of exercising, those with low income and less education, aren’t. Vasaloppet, the world’s most famous ski race, had to close for registering after ten minutes, when the 15,800 spots had been sold out. Now Vasaloppet and Göteborgsvarvet (the Göteborg half marathon) collect statistics over who their participants are, and the statistics show that the participants in general are highly educated; of all the skiers during the Vasaloppet week, 65% had studied at least three years at either college or university, for Göteborgsvarvet the number was 63%. Same thing with income, the average income of the Vasaloppet participants was 380,000 SEK ($57,000), and the runners in Göteborg made an average of 400,000 SEK ($60,000).

“We see that those with a higher income are also more aware of their health, and it is common to have running on the CV to show that one is working out,” says Bo Edsberger, director of the Göteborgsvarvet. Even LO (Landsorganisationen or the Swedish Trade Union Confederation), points at the link between exercising and class. During Almedalsveckan (the Almedalen Week, an annual political event taking place in and around Almedalen on Gotland), a new report was presented showing that officials exercise more than those who work outdoors. “If you have a higher education and income, you exercise more, and that is specifically true in the western world. You have better health, which also has to do with the prevalence of diabetes, obesity, etc,” says Örjan Ekblom, senior lecturer at the unit for Physical Activity and Health at Gymnastik- och idrottshögskolan (the Swedish School of Sports and Health Sciences). The differences are also seen in the general folk health statistics. People with shorter education and lower income spend their time off more sedately. So in spite of the exercise trend, the Swedes’ general state of physical activity is fairly still. “The paradox is that the races aren’t attracting those who would most benefit from them,” Ekblom continues.

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“Much has to do with how we are to reach those who are physically inactive and there’s a need for knowledge and development.” Mats Olsson, a researcher at the research firm Kairos agrees. Olsson works on the study Morgondagen’s exercise habits.
“It’s always the same people participating in the races, those who are already believers, but the message is not spread to the rest of the people. And the question is what happens in a society where some people spend time and money on creating better health, while others don’t do anything?” In the neighborhood of Gårdsten in Göteborg, the organization behind Göteborgsvarvet has a project where they work on adult exercising since a year and a half back. “It’s a blank spot on the map, a place not represented among our participants. We want to get more people to run, but our main goal is to spread health,” Edsberger explains.