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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

The Dubai Fitness Challenge doesn't end after 30 days. It's about changing habits for life

Practising a healthy lifestyle doesn't have a time limit

Almost 800,000 people took part in the month-long Dubai Fitness Challenge, an initiative that was aimed at getting people to exercise for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Almost 800,000 people took part in the month-long Dubai Fitness Challenge, an initiative that was aimed at getting people to exercise for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Last week saw the finale of the Dubai Fitness Challenge, which was launched by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, and aimed to get people exercising for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. A staggering 786,000 people took part in some 1,500 events, which kicked off with a carnival in Safa Park and featured fitness experts and exercise classes.

The challenge could not have asked for a better ambassador. Sheikh Hamdan frequently posts pictures of himself scuba-diving, horse-riding and spear-fishing on his social media channels and puts his name to one of the toughest sporting challenges in the UAE, the Dubai Crown Prince Endurance Cup.

Records were broken and new records set. If ever there was an incentive to stay healthy, the challenge provided it. Indeed, several participants told The National that they hoped it would be repeated next year as an incentive to keep the momentum and awareness up. However, the key is not to wait another year for another challenge but to use this impetus to change old habits for good.

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As cooler weather sets in, so, too, does the resolve to head outdoors and get fit. But the trouble with good intentions is that they often fade as life’s daily nagging chores and obligations get the better of us.

As this paper has previously reported, tackling obesity and heart disease is an uphill battle in a country in which life can sometimes get a little too comfortable. According to the World Health Organisation, the UAE ranks third in the Middle East for obesity, with more than a third of residents classed as obese. In addition, a third of residents suffer from type two diabetes, which experts have said is avoidable through simple lifestyle changes, such as the ones advocated by this year’s challenge.

With the ease of ordering food online and living a comfortable existence with almost everything accessible from our couches, it is imperative we constantly reassess our lifestyles, health, diet and exercise regimes and start practising good habits as a matter of course, not just when health is “in season”. The lessons of the last 30 days have been invaluable, but the biggest lesson is that persistence and resolve don't have a time limit.

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