Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 25 September 2020

The 60-plus age group in Abu Dhabi gets fitter under new initiative

The programme helps older residents stay active and improve their chances of ageing well

Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of the Department of Community Development talks to senior fitness enthusiasts after a workout session. Victor Besa / The National
Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of the Department of Community Development talks to senior fitness enthusiasts after a workout session. Victor Besa / The National

Around 200 pensioners and middle-aged people have been flocking to sports halls across Abu Dhabi social centres to get fitter.

Be Active, an initiative launched by the Department of Community Development (DCD), has trained 175 residents in different types of fitness activities since it launched on January 26.

The centres help older residents stay active and improve their chances of ageing well to live a healthier life in their later years.

In a test run, the programme runs across nine family development centres in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra until March 12.

“When planning a new project, you always try to make it perfect, but during the pilot period you discover some gaps,” said Dr Mugheer AlKhaili, the chairman of DCD and the founder of Be Active programme.

“So today we took the feedback of participants to see how we will further develop the initiative in the long run,” he said after visiting trainees at the foundation’s Al Zaab branch.

We have been training for three weeks now, I feel energetic, relaxed and my muscles are stronger

Yousef Al Ali

Among the enthusiastic participants were a retired sailor, an army officer and an environmental expert.

They urged the chairman of DCD to build a health club where they can work out and “share their knowledge and experiences”.

“If we have a place to gather us all, where we could train and shares ideas to create projects that would add value to society.

“We don’t want to stay at home only to be sent by our wives to go grocery shopping,” said Ibrahim Al Hammadi, an army retiree.

“We have a lot of energy and creativity that we can share.”

Mr Al Hammadi urges everyone to follow an active lifestyle. He’s been an active member of the community even after retiring from the UAE army in 1992. He currently practices law.

Senior fitness buffs during a low impact workout session at the family development foundation gym. Victor Besa / The National
Senior fitness buffs during a low impact workout session at the family development foundation gym. Victor Besa / The National

He was one of the first members of the programme.

“I am originally a man of the military which itself is a workout.”

He hopes such activities will run throughout the year.

Yousef Al Ali, a retired head sailor - locally known as a noukhatha, said he misses the rigorous life at sea.

After training with Be Active, he discovered new workouts he had never heard of before.

“We have been training for three weeks now, I feel energetic, relaxed and my muscles are stronger.”

The best part of it is doing it in a group, he said.

“We started as two people, then four, then six and today we are 14.”

He wants a public health club for senior residents, where they can exercise and socialise.

“We don’t have designated sports centres, so if we could have a permanent club where we can gather and bring our friends too,” said the 67-year-old.

Dr AlKhaili said the participants’ suggestions will be considered as they develop the programme.

“Our goal is to increase the number of participants and to increase the positive influence it has on their happiness and quality of life.

“Among them are doctors, counsellors and experts, who have contributed to the country’s development, so we would like to keep them active from a sports perspective.”

Using school gymnasiums and swimming pools after work hours can be an option, he said.

Be Active is part of a series of wellbeing projects launched by DCD recently.

In November 2019, the department launched Get Fit Abu Dhabi, which included a series of free fitness classes across malls in the emirate.

Healthcare spending in the UAE is predicted to more than double to $47.5 billion by 2040 as obesity tightens its grip on the nation’s health, according to the latest Global Burden of Disease study.

To fight the growing obesity rate, the UAE government encourages residents to live a healthy life.

In Dubai, the annual Dubai Fitness Challenge encourages residents to live an active lifestyle.

A recent government survey shows obesity and diabetes rates in the UAE are on the decline.

The results of the five-year National Health Survey, which polled 9,400 Emiratis and residents, showed a drop in percentage rates for diabetes, obesity and smoking, but a rise in high blood pressure among adults.

Adult obesity decreased by about a quarter between 2010 and 2019 and diabetes among adults dropped by more than a third during the same period.

The findings were endorsed by the World Health Organisation.

Updated: February 12, 2020 05:42 PM

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