A mere four percent on people living in the United Arab Emirates walk on a weekly basis, a new study by an international shoe maker has found.
Commissioned by South Korean shoe manufacturer RYN ahead of their forthcoming entrance into the Gulf shoe market, the study into Emiratis’ walking habits found that both UAE citizens and expatriates alike are not walking regularly enough.
In spite the fact that the walking infrastructure in the United Arab Emirates is well advanced compared to most countries in the world, just 4% of residents walk on a weekly basis,” read the report.
Dubai, the economic hub of the UAE, has built extensive pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, such as air conditioned walkways connecting major sites to encourage residents to walk instead of taking the car.
Dr. M. Ashfaq Konchwalla, Consultant Orthopaedic & Sports Surgeon at Dubai’s Medcare Hospital, said residents should take the study as a warning.
“Walking makes us live longer,” he told The Media Line. “Walking 150 minutes per week makes a person lose 7 percent of their body weight, which reduces risk of diseases.”
“Walking strengthens heart and is also good for the brain and the bones,” he continued. “It also helps alleviate symptoms of depression, improves fitness and enhances physical function.”
Gulf-based medical professionals say that the lack of exercise has led to a rise in lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
“Six countries in the Middle East and North African Region are among the world’s 10 highest for diabetes prevalence, including the United Arab Emirates,” David Whiting, Epidemiologist and Public Health Specialist of the International Diabetes Federation told The Media Line. “The ageing of populations, together with socio-economic and lifestyle changes, has resulted in the dramatic increase in diabetes prevalence. To a large extent the rise in prevalence is the unintended side-effect of great success in recent years.”
Many Emiratis have stopped eating traditional foods, which are rich in fiber and plant protein, turning instead to a diet of animal protein, fried food and cream, all new ingredients in the local diet.
“Over the past three decades, major social and economic changes have occurred,” Whiting said. “These include progressive urbanization, decreasing infant mortality and increasing life expectancy.”
“Rapid economic development has been associated with tremendous modification in lifestyle towards the westernized pattern reflected by changes in nutrition, less physical activity, tendency to increased obesity and more smoking,” he added.
Recent statistics from the International Diabetes Federation place the United Arab Emirates with the second worst diabetes rate in the world, with 18.7% of the population suffering from the disease.
Saudi Arabia follows close behind with 16.8% of its adult population suffering from diabetes. Bahrain (15.4%) was ranked fifth, Kuwait (14.6%) seventh and Oman (13.4%) eighth.