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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Fitness challenge sends out a powerful message

Through long-term ambition and short-term goals, Dubai's Crown Prince is helping to tackle our health crisis

Regular aerobic exercise is the key to better physical and mental health. Antonie Robertson / The National
Regular aerobic exercise is the key to better physical and mental health. Antonie Robertson / The National

When Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, launched the Dubai Fitness Challenge, earlier this month, his initiative’s long-term goal was to make the city one of the most active in the world. In the short-term, the challenge is designed to ingrain sport into our daily lives by encouraging residents to take 30 minutes of exercise for 30 days.

As The National reported, the challenge, which began with a weekend-long carnival at Al Safa Park, runs until November 18. Sheikh Hamdan said that the “aim of the event is to educate people on the importance of sports and its positive effect on the health of people. I wish that our people would continue exercising, with the same enthusiasm, after the end of the fitness challenge.”

There is little doubt that the challenge has caught the public’s imagination, in part because Sheikh Hamdan has been such a willing participant and a credible voice for the drive, and it is the great hope that even the most reluctant participants will find their feet and build exercise into their daily routine. Certainly, we will all need to if we are to tackle growing rates of obesity. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 70 per cent of the UAE’s population are overweight and a third are obese. The potential repercussions on society and government of those figures almost do not bear thinking about.

By focusing on regular exercise rather than on crash fitness courses, the challenge sends out a key message: that there is no fast track to a healthier lifestyle. It is no surprise that those who commit to new diets or exercise regimes crave instant results, but it is also true that no diet or exercise programme offers a magic formula for weight loss or muscle gain. Unfortunately, many residents still fall back on dramatic calorie reduction diets or over-exercising, but both courses of action bring complications and are unlikely to deliver the desired results.

All of which explains why the fitness challenge is also an important step in helping educate people in the virtues of a sustainable and realistic exercise routine.