The Lazy People of Malta

In the most complete study yet of physical activity, covering 122 countries, the people of Malta turned out to be the laziest people in the world. 72% of Maltese don’t get enough exercise, for which they would only need to engage in 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week, 20 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 days a week or some combination of the two.

As someone who lived on Malta for 5 months, I was saddened by that information. But then, thinking back to my time on this Mediterranean island, I can come up with a number of possible explanations for this laziness.

Too many cars

Malta is quite small and you could easily get everywhere by bicycle or even by walking. Still, everyone and his uncle have their own car. The few people who don’t own a car have a boat, a motorbike, a horse-drawn carriage or one of these fancy new science-fiction Segways; anything to make sure that you don’t need to walk one step too many.

I never understood the Maltese obsession with cars. There is not enough space to put them, the public transport system is very good and the most affordable in Europe, and distances are not far, enabling bicycle use or walking. I once missed the last bus from the airport and had to walk all the way to San Pawl il-Baħar, almost the complete length of the island. Even that only took 3 hours.

Not enough space to exercise

That is really a problem. Malta seems to be in the grip of the construction Mafia, who set out to cover even the last piece of natural land with concrete and bricks. This is even more shocking in light of the thousands of empty houses and office buildings that already ruin the landscape.

It is really hard to find a large area of green space that is good for runs or long walks. There is really only one forest, at Buskett, and it’s not exactly huge. My parents in Germany have more trees in their garden than this “forest” has.

There are some beautiful areas to walk in, e.g. Il-Majjistral Nature Park, although you may (accidentally?) get gunned down by hunters during your stroll. The landscape along the coast is dramatic and the colours beautiful but because of the complete absence of shade, I can understand that people don’t want to venture there in summer. Also because of too many cars on the road (see problem #1), it’s not necessarily a joy to get there by bicycle or by walking.

Hiking is also made more complicated by all the “Private!”, “Keep out!”, “Do not enter!” and other signs, some of them with threatening depictions of skulls.

Culture and heritage

Lastly, laziness seems to be embedded in Maltese culture. At the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni, statues were discovered from around 3000 B.C. Even back then, the Maltese were already couch-potatoes:

About Andreas Moser

You will most likely find me in the forest, next to the lake, reading a book. Just follow the cigar smoke!
This entry was posted in Environment, Health, Malta, Statistics, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to The Lazy People of Malta

  1. spa mal ta says:

    300,000 vehicles and counting. re malta’s only forest…Il-Buskett. which translated in Italian means a small woodland. so even the maltese acknowledge that Buskett is not a forest.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_vehicles_per_capita

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  2. Rats! ANOTHER important statistic, lost by we lazy Americans. :D
    (Wait – if we’re too lazy to out-lazy Malta, doesn’t that make the US even lazier than Malta?)
    Ouch – that made my head hurt. Well, more than usual. Gotta go lay down and be … well … lazy. ;)

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  3. Lee Ellis says:

    An article that migth hurt me as a Maltese citizen, but on a sad note it’s an article full of truth.

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    • I did not intend to hurt anyone. I really like Malta and I enjoyed my time there, but I am deeply worried what it will look like in 5 years. More buildings, more cars?

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      • Etienne Camilleri says:

        Sorry to intrude but most Maltese do not have ample time to exercise, this is because most Maltese work hard; owning a Full time job and so many also own a part time for the evenings, mostly Maltese do several voluntary work (poor children or disability, local festa and helping in churches, political activities and so many more to mention), apart from these our students have to study so hard after school hours to keep up with assignments/schools and universities as also stated Malta has the highest level of education within schools and universities (We are also bilingual, apart Maltese and English mostly all Maltese know another language), we can’t also forget to mention that many Maltese have a hobby if it’s fishing, instrument playing/studying, football, car enthusiasts, art and crafts ect… Now were is my free time to exercise :) (not that I don’t occasionally)

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      • You could walk from home to school, from school to home, from home to charity, from school to charity, and so on. Or you could ride the bike.

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  4. I must admit I know very little about Malta other than seeing an episode of Ice Pilots NWT during which the plane made a stop there for refueling. They showed a fairly close-in aerial view and from that vantage point it appeared to be a prototypically beautiful, Meditteranean island.

    Time for me to do a little research it seems!

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    • Oh, it has very beautiful parts. Beautiful old cities, a beautiful rocky coastline. Just have a look at some of my photo blogs about Malta. There is just no green and not much space left. It’s actually one of the more densely populated countries (which I also didn’t know prior to moving there).

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  5. Lenfex S.L says:

    Reblogueó esto en Lenfex Experiencey comentado:
    La pereza, el pecado capital de los malteses

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  6. Kavita Joshi says:

    This is good to know really as I do like to do stuff when I am in a new place and this place I will allocate only few days if I travel there…also as you said its really sad that people are using more car in this small place where you can pretty much get around with a bike or on foot…same is the case at my home town really..when I was growing up we used to walk every where and now the next generation has car or bike and its getting so poluted and crowded due to it

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    • try and cycle anywhere in Malta you are more likely to be knocked down by ignorant car drivers.

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    • Etienne Camilleri says:

      if you travel to do exercise; Malta is no place for you but if you’ll be looking for: good food, partying, culture, architecture, history, beautiful beaches, yes we do have lovely green areas as well, boat trips, nice hot weather in Summer and mild Winters, education, safety, helpful people then yes Malta is recommended for you!

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  7. Pingback: The Lazy People of Malta | LENFEX

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about how to stop putting things off and start
    getting things done. Regards

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  9. A rather naive blog post. The bus system is not very good, it doesn’t really run at night, routes are complicated, buses are airless and windowless. Riding a bicycle is perilous, the few bicycle lanes that exist peter off into nothing mid road and the terrain is hilly, making it generally unsuitable for every day biking. My friend has locked her bike and parked it in a busy town centre and has had it stolen 6 times. Not to mention that for about 6 months of the year it’s excessively hot and humid, walking anywhere is miserable due to general lack of shade.

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  10. Aaron Formosa says:

    maltese food is high in carbs and fat, i am of maltese background but from australia i eat maltese food 3 times a year…it is not healthy, malta do need to take sports and physical activity very very seriously and build facilities where kids can get fit again….i do not think the health minister does not have a clue what he or she is doing.

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    • Danjel says:

      There is no such thing as Maltese food, it’s called a Mediterranean diet!! One of the healthiest diets around, and this guy thinks he’s a nutritionist!

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      • Actually, the Maltese diet is not typical of the Mediterranean at all. That’s based mostly on fish and vegetables. I read in some English newspaper a while ago that Maltese kids are the fattest in the EU because the the local diet has inherited the worst parts of the British and Italian cuisine, namely pastry, pasta and chips.

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  11. Denise says:

    Malta is a beautiful Island with even more beautiful (welcoming) people – but it is not unlike most countries today; we all need to get more exercise and stop using the excuse that we don’t have time for exercise. If you value your health you will find the time – get out there and appreciate what a wonderful country you live in. I live in England and would gladly swap my country and weather for Malta and it’s culture, scenery and food.

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  12. Stephen Bonello says:

    Malta is one of the nicest places in the world to live. I’ve been around the world anywhere my job takes me but nothing compares. I’m maltese and proud of it for the following reasons. Not having any natural resources we still manage to thrive as a population. Almost completely free healthcare, free education up to and including post graduate in most cases (by the way you also get a stipend at post seconday school through University). Prices may have gone up through the years but we can still enjoy a good number of ‘luxuries’ with average salaries which you wouldn’t be able to do in other European salaries (we tend to take Europe as our benchmark).
    Countryside is awesome if you go to the village areas on the western side of Malta (Siggiewi, Qrendi, Zurrieq, Rabat) to mention just a few. The country is brimming with cheerful people and village festas, politics and football keeps people arguing and discussing. Food is mouthwatering to say the least and obviously healthy options are found everywhere. Studies such as the above do not really take into account activeness as is understood by the general public. Try and tell a builder working in Maltese limestone quarries that he is not active or a farmer working 20 tumoli of land (roughly 23000sqm) just because they don’t work out in the gym. I guess they’ll show you rather quickly that they don’t need to train. Malta has seen an increase in ‘forestation’ over the last decade and a huge increase in indigenous tree planting such as olive trees and vines. I invite anybody (particularly in Summer) to come over for a weeks holiday and then argue against my comment.

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  13. Pingback: Deconstructing the ‘Laziness’ study | The Malting Pot

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