More and more Saudis embracing sports, exercise

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Riyadh — Saudi citizens are getting to their feet and beginning to embrace sports and exercise, according to a new research.

In the first quarter of 2018, the General Sports Authority (GSA) conducted its second National Sports Survey, tracking sporting participation at all levels, from those taking up walking a few times a week to improve their health or amateurs beginning to attend weekly classes or clubs to hardcore gym enthusiasts and committed sports people.

This recent study looked at how the habits of Saudis toward exercise are changing since the same survey in 2015 identified a potential health crisis for the Kingdom.

The survey showed that only 13% of Saudi citizens aged over 15 years exercise at least once a week. Those findings were a wakeup call for the Kingdom and helped shape aggressive targets to support mass participation that were set in stone within the Vision 2030 plan.

The 2015 survey figure of 13% has now increased to 23% helping the GSA beat its interim Vision 2030 target of getting 20% of Saudis over 15 years old exercising by 2020.

The GSA established the Mass Participation Federation, which is the main body responsible for increasing participation in sports in the Kingdom, to improve the sports landscape and provide more opportunities for all members of society including men, women, youth, elderly, persons with disabilities, nationals and expats to participate in exercise.

The GSA has also worked on several important initiatives over the past three years such as:

• Work by the gym sector to expand their offering and services, including the opening and licensing of female-only gyms

• The delivery of regular events including for example the Riyadh Marathon with 12,000 runners, and major family events such as the FISE Activation in Jeddah with 150,000 participants

• The support of hundreds of Community Sports Groups with over 11,000 members

• Activation of Neighborhood League of Football with over 30,000 players and 800 teams.

Turki Al-Shaikh, Chairman of the General Sports Authority, said the support of the leadership has directly contributed to the successful development of the various sports fields and to the benefit of sports and society as a whole.

Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, Vice Chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA) said: “This result is huge motivator for us to even work harder to serve all different sports and physical activities.

“This accomplishment is due to the collaborative efforts of all departments within GSA and other governmental stakeholders, these efforts have generated a positive reaction by the people of Saudi Arabia to better the quality of their lives, they realized the true benefits of sport to them and to all members of society.”

Princess Reema Bint Bander, President of the Mass Participation Federation, said: “The improvements reflect the societal changes in culture and attitudes led by the Vision 2030 transformation and the support of Saudi women as a lot of women are now more open to engage in exercising and physical activity.

“It’s important to recognize that this is a family movement. Men and women, boys and girls, young and old, are responding and are proving, as we believe at the GSA, that sport is for all.”

Saudi Arabia’s exercise levels have also been tracked in a separate piece of research published by GSTAT, Saudi’s General Authority for Statistics. Within its findings its data showed that 16.5% of Saudis aged over 15 are active for at least 150 minutes per week.

Princess Reema said: “It’s promising that two separate and complimentary pieces of important research show that Saudi Arabia is on the move. It is welcome news, but this isn’t ‘mission accomplished, it’s the proof point to our work’. — SG


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