DUBAI // Almost 10,000 people took to the streets yesterday for Dubai Walks - part of the Government's Dubai Pulse programme that encourages residents to take more exercise and combat obesity. Schoolchildren joined staff from government departments and the public on the 3km walk along the Al Mumzar Corniche. It was the largest event so far in the Dubai Pulse campaign, which is run by the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). The initiative, launched in October, encourages everyone in the emirate to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
Hadil Hany, 23, from Lebanon, was on the walk with her young relatives and their classmates. "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," she said. For most of the pupils, who made up the vast majority of the participants, the event was an enjoyable day out.
But Zahir Merchant, 11, an Indian student at the Abdul International School who was sporting a Dubai Pulse T-shirt, said there was also a serious aspect: "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." Dr Ahmed al Sharif, the secretary general of the DSC, said 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 [as far away as] Umm Al Qaiwain, which demonstrates its popularity. "Our aim is to show the importance of physical exercise in creating a healthy population," he said. "We hope children will engage in the culture of sport and have increased awareness of the facilities available in the emirate." The Dubai Pulse campaign was formulated at a physical activity forum held earlier this year.
At the conference, sports associations and government departments met to develop a co-ordinated campaign to tackle high levels of obesity and heart disease. The programme was inspired by the Agita project in Sao Paulo. Since its launch in 1999, the scheme has achieved a 70 per cent increase in physical activity among the population of the Brazilian city. The project delivers public awareness campaigns and promotes mass participation events.
As part of Dubai Pulse, around 600 people attended the Dubai Swims event last month. Running and cycling days are planned for next February and March. Dubai Pulse is co-ordinated by a cross-governmental committee that comprises the DSC, DHA, the Roads and Transport Authority and the municipality. Further Pulse events will take place over the next two years. Many parts of Dubai lack open spaces and suitable paths that encourage walking, which in turn has contributed to an over-reliance on cars.
However, alongside Dubai Pulse, the municipality has specified that 45 per cent of all neighbourhoods in the city should be made up of parkland suitable for physical activity. firstname.lastname@example.org