Only 19% of Dubai’s population exercises to keep healthy

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The Dubai Health Authority announced key statistical results on exercise patterns of the population in the Emirate of Dubai. The results highlight the extent to which the population exercises on a regular basis to keep themselves in good health.

The findings suggest that there is a strong need to promote regular exercise to ward off lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart attacks, overweight and strokes. Only 19% of Dubai’s population gets sufficient amount of exercise which is required to stay healthy.

The results are part of the overall Dubai Household Health Survey (DHHS), which is a comprehensive survey of 5,000 households that was jointly conducted in 2009 by the DHA and the Dubai Statistics Centre.

As part of the survey, respondents were asked whether they undertake any moderate or intensive physical activity other than their work such as running, jogging or playing any kind of sport.

Among Emiratis aged 40 to 59 years, only 7% get enough exercise to stay healthy. This figure highlights the magnitude of the problem in terms of lack of exercises which is known to be a key factor that triggers off a host of lifestyle diseases.

The aim of the Exercise and Physical Activity module of the survey was to find out if the population of Dubai gets, ‘sufficient’ exercise to stay healthy. Therefore the parameters of the survey were developed accordingly, based on the guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine which stipulates the minimum level of exercise required to improve health and reduce the long-term risk of lifestyle diseases such as heart attack, strokes, obesity and certain chronic diseases. The survey asked respondents whether they are involved in any kind of vigorous or moderate intensity activity, other than those done as part of their work that increases their heart rate for at least 10 minutes continuously – like running or playing football or any other sport. The survey also took into consideration leisure and recreational activities as well as activities undertaken as part of one’s daily commute such as walking from one place to another. Those who responded “yes” to the above were asked “on how many days” and “for how many minutes” they engaged in such activities during a typical week.

The exercise threshold into moderate, vigorous and combination based on the amount and type of exercise an individual performs. For moderate exercise, a threshold of 150 minutes per week was used, i.e. 30 minutes a day for an average of five days per week. For vigorous exercises, a threshold of 75 minutes per week was used, i.e. 15 minutes a day for an average of five days per week. Appropriate combination of moderate and vigorous exercise were also included. Results were validated using multivariate regression analysis and other tests of statistical significance.

The results of the survey were split into two groups – exercise patters for the population of Dubai and exercise patters for Emiratis in Dubai.

The key findings as follows: Results for the Overall Population of Dubai

1. Only 19% of people in Dubai get enough exercise to keep themselves healthy.
2. Men get less exercise than women. Only 17% of men and 25% of women get enough exercise to keep themselves healthy.
3. Exercise levels decrease significantly with age in both sexes but especially in women. Less than 9% of women over 60 years get enough exercise to keep themselves healthy.
4. Among all nationalities, Filipinos, Arab Expats and Europeans get the most exercise.
5. Among men, Europeans get the most exercise: 28% compared with an average of 17%.
6. Among women, Filipinas get the most exercise: 41% compared with an average of 25%.
7. The relationship between income and exercise is not statistically significant.
8. There is a strong relationship between education and exercise. The more educated a person, the more likely he/she is to get enough exercise to stay healthy.

Results for UAE nationals:

1. Only 19% of UAE Nationals get enough exercise to keep themselves healthy.
2. There is no gender difference in exercise levels among UAE Nationals. In both males and females only 19% get enough exercise to keep themselves healthy.
3. Exercise levels decrease significantly with age in both sexes but especially in women. Only 5% of UAE National women over 60 years get enough exercise to keep themselves healthy.
4. A worrying result is observed for UAE National men aged 40-59 years – where only 7% get enough exercise to stay healthy. This raises important questions concerning the future health of this particular group.
5. The relationship between income and exercise is not statistically significant for UAE Nationals.
6. Overall, less educated adults and adults from poorer households significantly get less exercise.
7. There is a strong relationship between education and exercise among UAE Nationals. The more educated a person, the more likely he/she is to get enough exercise to keep healthy.

The results of the survey will be used in the emirates’ public health and awareness policies. The public, the private health sector, employees and schools should promote the need for regular exercise.

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