By Sara Abadi
Half of adults and 75% of youngsters fail to meet international exercise recommendations, Weill Cornell Medicine research finds.
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar have published a study on the prevalence of sedentary behaviour and lack of physical activity in the Middle East and North Africa. According to the study, 50% of adults and 75% of young people in MENA countries do not meet the World Health Organisation’s recommended levels of physical activity.
The World Health Organisation cites insufficient physical activity as one of the leading risk factors for premature death worldwide, and a major contributor to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular illness.
The study found that women in the MENA region, in particular, have various socio-cultural barriers that prevent them from getting the required amount of exercise. Dr. Sohaila Cheema spoke to Doha News about what such barriers could be.
“Some of those barriers include lack of social support, existing gender norms, conservative dressing that is not suitable for physical activity and lack of segregated fitness facilities,” says Dr. Cheema.
Under the current COVID-19 lockdown, many sports facilities have been closed, preventing people taking part in their usual physical activities such as swimming, team sports and going to the gym.
“Under such conditions, people can tend to be less active, resulting in weight gain and loss of physical fitness,” adds Dr. Cheema.
While there is no concrete evidence that people in Qatar have become less — or more — physically active since the country entered lockdown, Sports Corner told Doha News they have noticed a higher than usual demand for home fitness products.
“More customers have been looking for treadmills, elliptical trainer machines and upright bikes, as well as strength equipment such as dumbbells and barbells, and people are investing more in home fitness services since the lockdown,” a Sports Corner spokesperson said.
Quick tips for a more active lifestyle
Here are a few of our favourite ways to stay fit and motivated during lockdown.
Switch up your running/walking routine
Getting outside for exercise helps you connect with your mind, body and nature. Whether you’re a runner or walker, try and keep the routine fun by setting a schedule and goals. If you’re a walker, for example, map out a different route for each day of exercise. If you’re a runner, select a goal, like ‘Couch to 5K’, and set up a training schedule to achieve it.
During the COVID-19 situation, it’s important to take extra safety precautions including social distancing, wearing a face mask if you’re meeting up with other people, and washing your hands when you get home.
Use your chores
Household tasks like scrubbing, sweeping, dusting, and vacuuming can all add up when done at a brisk pace. They also work the muscles in your arms and legs.
Why not exercise during commercial breaks, as many of us are watching more TV? Make the commercials and end-credits count by adding in some squats, jumping jacks, push-ups, or lunges.
Move around the house more — walk while you’re talking on the phone and, if you have stairs, go up and down them a few extra times throughout the day.
Keeping mind healthy during lockdown
Yoga and meditation are an excellent way to rejuvenate your spirit and keep calm, especially in these testing times.
Hatha Yoga poses (Asanas) are a great way to stretch the body and relax your mind. Now is also a great time to incorporate Suryanamaskar into your daily routine. Suryanamaskar, also known as ‘the ultimate Asana’, strengthens your back and your muscles and brings down blood sugar levels. It is also reputed to improve metabolism and blood circulation.
Eat nutritious food
Consider limiting your visits to the grocery store to reduce the risk of coming into contact with the virus. Do online grocery shopping with a variety of specialist providers, and order nutritious foods that will help maintain a healthy immune system — green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, salads, lentils and legumes are all great sources of nutrients.
Why not use your extra down time to try new recipes, experimenting with vegan (plant-based) meals, ingredients from new parts of the world, and cooking healthy dishes for friends and family.
Have you tried a new exercise regime, or got some healthy eating tips to share? Comment below to let us know what you’ve tried.