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WCM-Q research highlights physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyles in MENA region

WCM-Q research showed widespread lack of physical activity across the MENA region.
WCM-Q research showed widespread lack of physical activity across the MENA region.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) have published a comprehensive study on the status of sedentary behaviour and physical activity in the Middle East and North Africa.

The research discovered that almost 50 percent of adults and 75 percent of young people in MENA countries did not meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended levels of physical activity. WHO recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week for adults and 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily for children and youth. Lack of physical activity is a key risk factor for obesity and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which frequently lead to severe life-limiting complications and premature death. 

Dr. Ravinder Mamtani, WCM-Q’s Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research, Professor of Medicine and Vice Dean for Student Affairs, Population Health, and Lifestyle Medicine, is one of the authors of the study. He said: “Non-communicable diseases now account for around 41 million deaths worldwide each year, which works out at 71 percent of all deaths. Lack of physical activity, particularly among young people, should therefore be viewed as nothing less than a global public health emergency, as this research makes very clear.”

Members of WCM-Q's IPH team, from left: Dr. Ravinder Mamtani, Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Dr. Karima Chaabna, Dr. Sonia Chaabane and Dr. Amit Abraham.

The MENA region has some of the highest rates of NCDs in the world, and the second-highest prevalence of diabetes (10.8 percent) of any world region. The study, entitled, ‘Physical activity and sedentary behaviour in the Middle East and North Africa: An overview of systematic reviews and meta-analysis’, has been published in Scientific Reports, an open access journal belonging to the prestigious Nature group of publications.  

The paper is based on detailed analysis of seven scientific systematic reviews and 229 primary studies on physical activity and sedentary behaviour in the MENA region published since the year 2000. The 20 MENA countries included in the study are Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The research team then used sophisticated statistical meta-analysis techniques to interpret the data collected from the published reviews.

The first author of the study, Dr. Sonia Chaabane, Projects Specialist in WCM-Q’s Institute for Population Health (IPH), said: “It is important to further understand the personal, social and environmental barriers to physical activity, which will aid and facilitate effective, locally informed interventions.”

WCM-Q researchers who worked on the study with Dr. Mamtani and Dr. Chaabane are Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Director of IPH and Assistant Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research; Dr. Karima Chaabna, Population Health and Communication Specialist and Instructor in Healthcare Policy and Research; and Dr. Amit Abraham, Instructor in Healthcare Policy and Research and Projects Specialist.

Dr. Cheema,  said: “The study demonstrates a critical need for urgent public health interventions across the entire MENA region, especially among young people, to allow for higher levels of physical activity and to discourage sedentary lifestyles. The study also highlights a need for systematic data collection across the MENA region regarding levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviour, as well as rates of associated non-communicable diseases, so that we can better understand the situation and determine which interventions are most effective, specific to our context.”

WCM-Q’s IPH has been at the forefront of lending full support to the State of Qatar’s overall goal of promoting healthy lifestyles.

The paper can be read in full here.