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.
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: