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Cycling is one feature of the GoYas initiative, which is aimed at giving women more opportunities to exercise. Martin Pfeiffer for The National
Cycling is one feature of the GoYas initiative, which is aimed at giving women more opportunities to exercise. Martin Pfeiffer for The National

GoYas, get fit and tackle the serial killers of our health

Diabetes and obesity are both serial killers that suck the health out of our population, so initiatives such as GoYas where women can work out at the Marina Circuit are to be welcomed and should be rolled out across the Emirates.

I am one for trying out new things, especially outdoor activities. I do not like to work in a confined place, such as a gymnasium, and that is why you will always find me drawn to outdoor sports such as horse riding, hiking and cycling.

So it was only natural that I was thrilled to hear about the GoYas initiative on Yas Island's marina circuit.

GoYas is a women-only initiative where women could head over to the circuit every Wednesday evening and engage in sporting activities such as zumba classes, cycling, running or even walking, all free of charge. The activities are all supervised by international certified trainers and come with the privacy that many Emirati and Arab women in general find to be extremely attractive.

I went and checked out the place with my best friend last week. One thing I did not expect was the huge crowd of Emirati women there. I saw a number of my friends there who I have not seen in years, in addition to my mother's friends. Many ladies were engaged in the boot camp activities, and a whole bunch of others like my best friend and I were waiting in line for bicycles to be returned so that we could get on the wheels.

I am usually not a very patient person, specifically when the weather is not so charming. But my surprise at the great turnout that night kept me silent and not so nagging.

Cycling on the circuit was an experience on its own, and definitely different from cycling along Abu Dhabi's Corniche, where young drivers honk their car horns as they pass by. I felt that it was one of those things that many women in Abu Dhabi were missing, hence the huge turnout and demand.

The rate of obesity and diabetes in the UAE is extremely high.

The Emirates has the second highest level of diabetes in the world with a rate of 19.5 per cent, according to the International Diabetes Federation. (Only the Pacific island of Nauru has a higher rate.)

The prevalence of diabetes here is partly due to obesity and lack of physical activity.

I believe that more initiatives such as GoYas should be implemented across Abu Dhabi and the Emirates. Some ladies who live on the island of Abu Dhabi and have limited access to transportation will find it more useful and encouraging if such an initiative was near home. They will have no excuse not to exercise.

Perhaps the sports clubs scattered around the city such as Al Wahda and Al Jazira could follow the same example. They could start off by dedicating a private ladies' night once a week where women could use the tracks to jog, run, walk or even bring in their own bicycles. It would be great if they provided a number of bicycles for women to borrow and train on.

I was excited to hear about Abu Dhabi's government plan to create 40 community centres in coordination with the private sector. In addition to retail, banks, and government service outlets, each centre will include a gymnasium, which will hopefully include one dedicated to ladies. The project is already under way and is expected to deliver all centres by the year 2016.

Although it is an amazing initiative, I do not think we should wait until then to start moving, but as suggested above, existing sports clubs, and perhaps schools could start off with those initiatives. The facilities are already there, and perhaps a couple of supervisors and trainers need to be there, once a week. And I am pretty sure that would not break their budget.

Just think about what inactivity is doing to our youth - our nation's future business leaders, scientists and artists - and how much money it's draining from our government health care. When we hear about a serial killer on the loose, we do not stop until we throw them behind bars.

Well, diabetes and obesity are both serial killers that suck the health out of our population, and there is no better time than the present to start moving and doing something about it.

 

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and fashion designer based in Abu Dhabi. She can be followed on Twitter: @manar_alhinai

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