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Dubai Walks event attracts 10,000 participants

Almost 10,000 people participated in the Dubai Walks event today, part of a government programme to encourage a healthy lifestyle and combat obesity.

DUBAI // Almost 10,000 people participated in the Dubai Walks event today, part of a government programme to encourage a healthy lifestyle and combat obesity. Schools from across the city joined staff from Government departments and members of the public in the 3km walk along the Al Mumzar Corniche. It was the largest event so far in the Dubai Pulse campaign, co-ordinated by the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) and Dubai Health Authority (DHA), that encourages everyone in the emirate to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. Hadil Hany, 23, from Lebanon, was at the event to support her young relatives who were taking part with their classmates. She said the event was a positive way of motivating children to exercise. "It is a great event, everyone is excited to be involved and there is friendly atmosphere. It is a good way of combating obesity. Events like these are the first step in embedding exercise in the culture. I really hope that these children continue to walk as part of their daily routines." For the school children, who made up the vast majority of the participants, it was a fun day out with their classmates. But Zahir Merchant, 11, an Indian student at the Abdul International School, proudly wearing his 'Dubai Pulse' T-shirt, said that there was also a serious message that they should exercise regularly and it was beginning to sink in. "It has been really good fun to walk with so many people. But the most important thing is that it is good for our health." "The Dubai Pulse campaign was developed after sports associations and government departments met at a physical activity forum earlier this year to find a coordinated response to high levels of obesity and heart disease. The campaign is inspired by the Agita project in Sao Paulo that has achieved a 70 per cent increase in physical activity in the Brazilian city since it was launched in 1999 through public awareness campaigns and mass participation events. Last month around 600 people attended a Dubai Swims event, with running and cycling days being planned for next February and March. Dr Ahmed Al-Sharif, Secretary General of the DSC, said that he was delighted by the high turn-out and particularly the support shown by schools. "It has been an excellent event and we have even attracted schools from Umm Al Quwain, which demonstrates its popularity. Our aim is to show the importance of physical exercise in creating a healthy population. We hope children will engage in the culture of sport have increased awareness of the facilities available in the emirate." The Pulse campaign is coordinated by a cross-governmental committee featuring the DSC, DHA, RTA and the Dubai Municipality. An action plan of events has been planned for the next two years and their impact will be assessed through participation statistics and feedback questionnaires. Traditionally Dubai has lacked open spaces and paths to encourage walking, which in turn has contributed to an over-reliance on cars. However, in a related initiative Dubai Municipality have specified that 45 per cent of all neighbourhoods in the city should be green spaces and available for physical activity. The DSC are also planning to launch a walk to school initiative early next year in partnership with the RTA. tbrooks@thenational.ae

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