DUBAI // Mass walkathons around shopping malls will form part of a nationwide campaign to encourage a healthier lifestyle this Ramadan.
The initiative hopes to attract people from all backgrounds to take the first step to getting fit with the air-conditioned shopping centres acting as the ideal venues for some light exercise away from the heat.
"This is our commitment to our customers and community, and our contribution to a more sustainable way of living," said Osman Sultan, chief executive of du, which is hosting the campaign as part of its Every Step Counts campaign.
"It is our way of inspiring people living in the UAE to take responsibility for their health, to start living a healthier lifestyle today."
The UAE is the world's eighth most inactive country, according to medical journal The Lancet.
"It is clear something needs to be done to improve things and hopefully by launching this campaign we can do that," he said.
The two-year campaign, inspired by a call from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for people to adopt a more active lifestyle, is backed by singer Hussain Al Jasmi.
Du is giving health checks to staff at its offices as well as introducing healthy meal options in canteens and gym and medical facilities.
After Ramadan the company hopes to start a "back to school" campaign with youngsters as well as encouraging people to blog their fitness and health success stories.
"People think that taking the first step is so difficult but in most cases it's just a limiting belief," said Hala Badri, the executive vice-president, brand and communications, at du.
The mall walks will begin during Ramadan. With more details to be released about fitness and health events with schools, public and private organisations, and government departments.