81% of Dubaians don't exercise enough to stay healthy

Strong need to promote regular exercise to ward off lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart attacks and strokes

Only 19 per cent of the population in Dubai gets sufficient exercise required to stay healthy, according to Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

Announcing the results of a survey that highlights exercise patterns of individuals in Dubai, DHA said only 7 per cent of UAE national men aged 40 to 59 years get sufficient exercise required to stay healthy.

The results highlight the extent to which the people of Dubai exercises on a regular basis to keep themselves healthy. The results strongly highlight the need to promote regular exercise to ward off lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, as only 19 per cent 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.

Laila Al Jassmi, CEO of Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA said, “The results strongly advocate the need to promote regular exercise as just about one-fifth of our population gets sufficient exercise that is required to stay healthy and among Emiratis aged 40 to 59 years, only 7 per cent get enough exercise to stay healthy. This figure highlights the magnitude of the problem in terms of lack of exercise which is known to be a key factor that triggers off a host of lifestyle diseases.”

Al Jassmi highlighted that the statistics provides details of the exercise patterns of the population in Dubai in terms of age, gender, income, education and nationality. “These findings provide us valuable data so that we can base our public health policies in a manner that allows us to reach out to the segment of society that most requires it.”

Dr Eldaw Abdalla Suliman, Head of Research and Performance Management in DHA’s Health Policy and Strategy Sector, said 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.

Dr Suliman elaborated, “We divided 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 exercise, a threshold of 75 minutes per week was used, i.e. 15 minutes a day for an average of five days per week.”

“Appropriate combinations 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.

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.


Al Jassmi concluded by saying, “The results of this survey will be used in our public health and awareness policies. |We urge all stakeholders- the public, private health sector, employees and schools to come together and promote the need for regular exercise.”

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