Can the UAE become the most active country in the world?

Dubai’s Crown Prince certainly thinks so, as should all of us

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohamed launched the Dubai Fitness Challenge to encourage healthier, more active lifestyles. Faz3 Instagram account
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Thirty minutes of activity for 30 days, wherever you are. It's a simple but bold challenge, issued this week by Dubai's Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, to everyone in the UAE over the coming month.

The Emirates is blessed to be one of the most prosperous nations in the world. It is one of the safest and most stable nations in the world. It is one of the most ambitious nations in the world. But is it the most physically fit nation in the world?

It would be hard to say for sure. Anyone out for an evening stroll along the pavements of Dubai Marina this time of year, however, will risk being knocked off their feet by joggers. Saadiyat Beach in Abu Dhabi has become an aquatic playground for kite surfers, and the rocky cliff faces of Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah are often peppered with climbers. Umm Al Emarat Park in Abu Dhabi recently inaugurated a 1.2km long jogging track. Even if not all of the UAE’s residents are active athletes yet, the country offers the right combination of access to nature and public investment necessary to enable anyone to be the fittest they are capable of being.

That is an offer worth taking advantage of. The UAE continues to face health challenges across society, including relatively high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and smoking. Considerable efforts have been made to combat these issues, to great success. But there is always more work to be done to achieve a healthier society.

Events this year have not made it easy, to be sure. 2020 has been a challenging year altogether for physical fitness. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic saw stay-at-home orders during much of the spring. When outdoor exercise was eventually allowed, and even encouraged, by public officials, residents were cautioned to stay within the vicinity of their homes and adhere to strict physical distancing measures. For many of us in the digital age who might prefer to take part in a Netflix marathon over even a short sprint outside, the limitations imposed on pandemic life seemed a decent excuse to succumb to lazy temptation.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October  23, 2020.    Abu Dhabi residents on their Friday morning fitness ritual.
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
for:  Standalone/Weather
As the weather cools, Abu Dhabi residents find it much easier to be out for a walk. Victor Besa/The National
Thirty minutes of activity for 30 days, wherever you are

But physical fitness is a crucial part of maintaining one’s overall health, all the more so when faced with the threat of an infectious respiratory disease. It strengthens the immune system, aids a good night’s sleep and boosts mental health. It is, in other words, the perfect antidote to the physical and emotional tolls that 2020 has wrought.

So it is worth seizing any and every opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of living to our fullest potential, mentally and physically. Light-hearted challeges and healthy competition are not a bad way to keep the public engaged in that winning mind-set. As Sheikh Hamdan said, “Together, let’s make the UAE the most active country in the world.”