People of all ages and abilities are being encouraged to unite in the name of health, as the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) prepares to Step Together in recognition of World Diabetes Day. The program will take place in partnership with global healthcare company Novo Nordisk, which seeks to discover better treatments for people living with diabetes and other serious chronic diseases, supported by the Royal Danish Embassy in Saudi Arabia.
The world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign, World Diabetes Day seeks to draw attention to key issues related to the condition, promote advocacy efforts, and encourage sustainable action for prevention or management of the disease. In support of the campaign, the Saudi Sports for All Federation is urging the Kingdom’s active community to take part in the third edition of the popular Step Together series, starting on November 4 and ending on World Diabetes Day itself – November 14.
Adults are challenged to walk or run 21.1km, while children are challenged to walk or run 14km, with every finishing participant receiving a medal for their achievement and all competitors receiving certificates of participation. The third Step Together challenge was conceptualized by the SFA, in a first-time collaboration with the Royal Danish Embassy and Novo Nordisk.
“Over the course of the 11 days, and especially on November 14, we want to see our healthy active community head out. Bringing all of your family members to walk or run on World Diabetes Day,” said HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, President of SFA. “Tag us in your photos and videos; let us know that you’re participating in Step Together for wellness and increased education on diabetes prevention and management.”
Promoting wellbeing and encouraging a healthy lifestyle in people across Saudi Arabia are core tenets of the SFA. The third Step Together event is staged under the banner of the Quality of Life program - part of the Kingdom’s wide-ranging Vision 2030 development plans.
Focusing on World Diabetes Day, the third Step Together is supported closely by the Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee. The virtual event hones in on a health condition that effects around 4.26 million adults in Saudi Arabia (18.3% of the population), and more than 7 million adults in the wider Gulf region (16.9%), according to figures from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). The IDF data demonstrates regional diabetes prevalence as follows: Kuwait (22%), followed by Saudi Arabia, then Bahrain (16.3%), UAE (15.4%), and Oman (8%).
Diabetes is described by the World Health Organization as “a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves”. Type 2 diabetes is the most common variety, occurring when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin.
Some 463 million adults around the world were living with diabetes in 2019, causing the deaths of 4.2 million people, according to the IDF. The number of people living with the disease is expected to rise to 578 million by 2030 and 700 million people by 2045.
Despite the continual growth in people affected by it, there is a lot that can be done to either prevent or manage diabetes. Physical activities that are both fun and enjoyable and can be undertaken individually or in a group. The vast majority of advice from diabetes groups around the world comes down to two things: diet and exercise.
Diabetes UK offers some simple advice when it comes to nutrition including choosing beverages without added sugar, choosing high fiber carbohydrates, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and including healthier fats in your diet. But most diabetes associations are keen to express that each person will have their own dietary requirements.
Similarly, the optimal level and type of exercise will differ from person to person, but there are some general guidelines that are widely advocated such as maintaining daily moderate activity levels for 30 minutes five days per week or 15 minutes of vigorous activities five days per week. Moderate activities include walking, cycling, swimming, and gentle online exercise classes, while vigorous activity can include running, HIITT workouts, and dynamic team sports.
Regular exercise has been proven to lower blood sugar in two main ways, explains the American Diabetes Association. Firstly, “insulin sensitivity is increased, so your muscle cells are better able to use any available insuline to take up glucose during and after activity.” Secondly, when muscles contract during activity, cells are able to take up glucose and use it for energy whether insulin is available or not.
Technical details aside, a key factor in using exercise to prevent or manage diabetes is consistency; ensuring active habits are easy to establish and maintain.
In Saudi Arabia, the combined efforts of the SFA, Ministry of Sport, and numerous partners from the private and public sectors, mean residents have easy access to a wide range of high quality exercise option across the Kingdom. Whether exercising individually, as a family, or as part of a community sports group, the SFA and other stakeholders have created a level playing field for everybody to stay fit and healthy.
Through community events, online workouts, the activation of public parks, healthy living campaigns, or other avenues, the Federation has also helped make physical activity fun and enjoyable – a vital ingredient in establishing regular movement.
Among its various events, activities and campaigns, the SFA’s first Step Together program took place in July, with more than 2,600 people run and walk either half or full marathons across 10 days, covering a combined distance of 44,850 km. The second edition in partnership with Nike took place in between October 4 and 13, with people taking part in a series of four challenges, at distances of 15 km, 20 km, 25 km, and 30 km; a combined distance of 90 km, in honour of Saudi Arabia’s 90th National Day.
The third edition of Step Together will give people the opportunity to join hands and have fun in support of a healthy and vibrant society; participants walking and running together in pursuit of national wellbeing.
All ages and abilities are encouraged to register now: http://sfa.sa/st3