Children are being offered chances to win mountain bikes and iPods in an effort to get them to walk more. More than 4,000 11 to 16-year-olds from around 40 schools across the UAE will be challenged to walk 10,000 steps a day as part of a national anti-obesity campaign. The two-day 1.5 Million Steps competition, organised by the health insurer Daman, will set for each school a target of 1.5 million. The insurer will send out 4,000 pedometers to participating schools. The schools and pupils with the most steps will win the sports equipment.
According to Daman, 26 per cent of children aged five to 17 are obese. The insurer attributes that largely to their "comfortable lifestyle", which often lacks physical activity and a healthful diet. The insurer also said childhood obesity had contributed to the national diabetes epidemic. The UAE has the second-highest rate of diabetes in the world, according to the World Health Organisation. Dr Michael Bitzer, Daman's chief executive, said it was important to focus on children as it was easier to prevent bad habits from setting in than trying to break old habits.
"Obesity rates are dramatically increasing in the UAE and it is becoming increasingly clear that we need more initiatives to embed exercise as a hobby and health habit in the minds of our youth," he said. "It is crucial that we promote healthy living while they are young before bad habits become harder to deal with later on in their lives." firstname.lastname@example.org