After thousands of years as hunter-gathers, humans should need little prodding to move. But now that walking, running and swimming are no longer matters of life and death in the short term, the long term risks of inactivity have created their own dangers. Only a few generations ago, Bedouins had to depend on the individual strength of each other to survive. Modernisation has brought the trappings of sedentary life to this part of the world quicker than almost any other. Fizzy drinks and junk food have become staples for many youths. And as we report today, these foods have become so prevalent that Emiratis such as Abdulrahman al Ali, a 22-year old student at Sharjah Men's College, have developed a self-professed "addiction" to them.
Mr al Ali represents a generation of Emiratis who are increasingly aware that their lifestyles need to change. For students at Sharjah Men's College, that change has come in the form of required health and fitness classes. The programme, a joint initiative with the Sharjah Football Club, mandates two hours of health class and two hours of exercise a week that counts towards obtaining a degree. For exercise enthusiasts, this would seem a paltry amount. Two hours of exercise a week is a little more than one football game or around 15 minutes of brisk walking each day. But for those who must be prodded off the couch, unplugged from their laptop and dragged from their cars, such programmes offer small, but vital steps for achieving better health. This holds especially true for students, who should be taught early on the importance of training a healthy body to support a healthy mind.
After all, the aim of higher education is to equip students with the knowledge they need to succeed professionally and contribute to society. With the nation intent on developing a knowledge economy in the coming years, building an awareness of how to make healthy choices should be a critical component of that endeavour.