Recent statistics, in a collaborative research study done by the UAE Ministry of Health, US’s Centre for Disease Control and the World Health Organization show that 45.3 per cent of children living in the UAE between the ages of six and 16 are classified as overweight or obese.
With the UAE being classified among the top countries in the world with high rate of obesity cases, there has been a deliberate and sustained effort to incorporate sport as one of mainstream academic activities, for the purposes of promoting healthy lifestyles among the youth.
“The Real Madrid Academy aims to promote sports values as an educational instrument in the youth’s development,” said Iñigo Arenillas, the Head of International Projects for Africa and Middle East - Real Madrid Foundation, Abu Dhabi. “Of course one of the objectives is to instill the values and principles that have steered our international team’s soccer prowess successfully across the globe, to children.” Arenillas urged parents to become involved in their children's sports and have realistic expectations for success.
Bec Schwartz, the Business Development Manager of Haddins Fitness located in Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi, also emphasized on the need to introduce more sporting clubs in the country. “The teenage population in the UAE is extremely inactive,” lamented Schwartz, adding, Part of this is due to the lack of sporting options that teenagers have, especially over summer months.”
High obese cases blamed on inactivity among children. “This is an alarming statistic and gives a very strong case for the introduction of exercise into all children in the UAE,” warned Schwartz.
A number of public and private organizations are also simultaneously running camps across the UAE during the summer holidays, in the hope of getting more children and youths involved in activities that will keep them physically active.
And what do children gain from participating in these sports? “It is all about inclusion, citizenship and educating in sport values as discipline, leadership, commitment, solidarity, respect, equality, responsibility, fair play, companionship and teamwork,” Arenillas said.