Saudi Arabia’s Sports for All Federation (SFA) has been keeping busy during these challenging and uncertain times expanding its range of nationwide health initiatives.
The underlying message is clear: keep active if you want to live a long and healthy life.
In recent months the federation has launched a wide range of wellness and health programs to encourage people of all ages and fitness levels to get and stay active during the COVID-19 lockdown, Ramadan and Saudi National Day celebrations. It is also working to raise awareness about the importance of incorporating physical activity into daily life, and the long term, positive effects this can have not only on physical wellbeing but also mental health.
“One of the main reasons people put off exercising or don’t prioritize planning time to exercise into their busy schedules is a lack of awareness about exercise’s physical, mental and social benefits,” said Fahad Saud Fahad Al-Sahli, one of SFA’s official Baytak Nadeek (your home, your gym) trainers. The health and wellness advocate is also a Taekwondo second Dan coach, a Spartan Global Ambassador, and a keen runner who has won prizes for obstacle racing at home and abroad.
“When people become aware of the benefits of physical activity — big or small — they will incorporate it into their schedules. It will become an essential part of their day,” he added.
During a year dominated by the pandemic, many people in the Kingdom have taken up some form of physical activity, motivated by the long months of lockdowns to make essential lifestyle changes.
They created impromptu gyms, switched to healthier eating habits and took advantage of the many free classes offered by the SFA and established trainers in the Kingdom and beyond. These lifestyle changes have had positive effects in these tough times, with many people inspired to monitor their progress and develop a more optimistic and proactive approach to their future health.
“This year has been a whirlwind but I wanted to keep my promise to myself to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” said Ruaa Amin, a 35-year-old stay-at-home mom of two young daughters. “Seeing and hearing of the many initiatives Saudi Arabia has these days, from trainers and the SFA too, has kept me going, as well as the shift in the everyday conversation among friends to try this new workout or that new class, and even healthy take-out options.
“My youngest even reminds me of our daily 20-minute yoga sessions as she likes to lay down and breathe with me — it gets her out of her nap time.”
For anyone who is not prioritizing fitness but wants to start, Al-Sahli advises that the first step is to decide the main motivation — is the aim to improve overall health, approach it as a hobby that will develop a skill set, or improve existing skills for professional reasons?
“Starting a fitness journey doesn’t have to be complicated,” he said. “There is enough research that says shorter workouts are beneficial — the key is to do them frequently. So, for anyone short of time, the simplest thing to do is walk. Walking can be done anywhere, any time and can be done in short bursts that will add up to measurable health benefits.”
Yoga, aerobics, CrossFit, strength training and swimming are just a few of the other activities that are available, many of which can be done in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace, Al-Sahli said.
Adopting and maintaining a more active lifestyle, and building strength gradually, offers great benefits that can make a huge difference to physical and mental wellbeing, he added.