DUBAI // Turn off that television. Dubai wants at least 38 per cent of you physically active by the end of next year.
The Dubai Sports Council will begin its fourth Pulse Dubai programme this weekend with a swim on Umm Suqeim beach, as part of a plan to push the emirate into the "active" category at next year's Be Active conference in Australia.
"We would like Dubai to be alongside the countries that are physically active, rather than those that are not," said Nasser Al Rahman, Dubai Pulse coordinator.
Mr Al Rahman gave Sao Paulo, Brazil, Amsterdam and Copenhagen as examples of active cities.
As it stands, Dubai is in the "non-active" category but the council has organised seven events this year to try to change that.
"There is a lot of criteria and we have to submit a lot of information, which we have done," Mr Al Rahman said.
The council is working with an organisation called Agita Mundo, which outlines the criteria for an active population and how best to run a healthy campaign.
The council surveyed 3,800 Dubai residents and found only 34.5 per cent were physically active.
Last year, the number increased to 36.5 per cent and Mr Al Rahman said he hoped the percentage would reach 38.5 by the end of this year.
"We need it to be 45 per cent after five years," he said. "It's not easy to increase it by 1 per cent, because people need programmes to encourage them to exercise."
Active cities have participation rates of about 70 per cent.
On April 6 the council started what will be an annual day of sports across the emirate, and Mr Al Rahman said it would be bigger next year.
It will also hold its own Be Active forum, a smaller version of the conference, next year.
Dubai Pulse will target the entire community, and there will be seven key events between now and the end of the year.
The programme begins this weekend with Hamilton Aquatics' Dubai Swims.
Yesterday, seven Dubai-based sports companies signed an agreement to promote and hold events that include the Spinneys Dubai 92 Cycle Challenge.
Ignite Fitness and Wellness Club, Hamilton Aquatics, Original Fitness Company and Urban Energy will operate regular programmes with sessions for swimming, cycling, zumba, boxfit and yoga.
Chris Tidy, managing director of Hamilton Aquatics, said more than 200 people turned up for last year's swim and more were expected on Friday.
Laurence Arca-Bathe, director of Urban Energy Fitness, said more pregnant women should exercise and noted the UAE was behind Europe, although awareness in the Emirates of health benefits was increasing.
"The numbers in Europe are much higher, for one very simple reason," Ms Arca-Bathe said. "Exercise in pre and post-pregnancy is covered by national insurance, so very often medical insurance companies will cover exercise and that would make such a difference here."
Guillaume Mariole, managing director of Ignite Fitness and Wellness, was working in the gym at the Olympic Village in London this summer and said programmes such as Dubai Pulse enable officials to more easily identify talented youth.
"It will get the community moving and that is when you spot talent," Mr Mariole said. "[Usain] Bolt was doing sprints on the beach when someone found him."
The sports council has created a map of Dubai with all of the city's sports destinations and their GPS coordinates marked.
The map will cost Dh30 at bookshops and Dubai Duty Free.