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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

It’s time for us all to exercise some common sense

Low levels of activity show many are taking too little responsibility for their health

The UAE is more inactive than the global average. AP
The UAE is more inactive than the global average. AP

The news from the World Health Organisation that a quarter of the world’s population is failing to get enough exercise should prompt all of us to take a look in the mirror. This isn’t about vanity, but living a long and healthy life.

Unless we do at least 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week, we increase our risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, breast and colon cancer and dementia. In the UAE 41.4 per cent of people are failing to achieve these modest targets – 39 per cent of men and 49 per cent of women. That’s not as bad as in Kuwait which, with 67 per cent of the population physically idle, is the world’s least active country, but is much worse than the global average.

With some of the highest levels of obesity and diabetes in the world, the UAE is at risk of a health and social-care crisis. In that light, exercising becomes a civic duty. Of course, in hot countries such as the UAE, people understandably tend to avoid walking even moderate distances.

Some of the benefits of living in an advanced country also conspire against best intentions – an excellent healthcare system acts as a psychological safety net, discouraging a proactive approach to personal wellbeing.

Regardless, there are plenty of opportunities for exercise, from the numberless gyms to events such as the Dubai Fitness Challenge, which aims to commit residents to 30 minutes of exercise a day for 30 days.

Governments, says WHO, must introduce policies to increase levels of activity. But ultimately, the responsibility lies with each of us – not just to exercise, but to eat and live healthily. By neglecting our health we put ourselves at great risk, store up heartache for loved ones and contribute to an unsustainable national burden.

It behoves us all not to rest on our laurels, safe in the knowledge that the UAE's superb offering of world-class hospitals and doctors will step in should our health take a turn. Rather we must be both proactive and hollistic in the way we approach our health.