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WCM-Q researchers: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ excitement to boost healthy lifestyles

Research by Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Dr. Javaid Sheikh, and Dr. Ravinder Mamtani of WCM-Q highlights the opportunities offered by FIFA World Cup 2022™ to promote healthy lifestyles in Qatar.
Research by Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Dr. Javaid Sheikh, and Dr. Ravinder Mamtani of WCM-Q highlights the opportunities offered by FIFA World Cup 2022™ to promote healthy lifestyles in Qatar.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) have highlighted the opportunity presented by FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ to promote healthy lifestyles as a means to prevent, treat and reverse non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as obesity, heart disease, respiratory disease, type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer, among others. 

The research points out that NCDs account for almost 70 percent of deaths in Qatar and calls for an increased use of lifestyle medicine approaches to mitigate the risks posed by unhealthy lifestyle habits such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, and tobacco use. The paper, published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, states: “FIFA World Cup 2022™ could just be the tipping point in the region that establishes the role of sports in mitigating the burden of NCDs.”

The paper, titled ‘Scoring Lifestyle Medicine Goals with FIFA 2022—An Opportunity to Strike Big!’ notes that recreational soccer improves cardio-respiratory endurance, increases bone density and muscular strength, and also enhances balance and flexibility. Regular soccer playing is also known to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis, as well as being an effective tool to fight childhood obesity when coupled with healthy nutrition. Soccer is also known to promote social connectedness and foster relationships, which benefits mental health and wellbeing, the paper states. Furthermore, there is strong evidence that different forms of soccer provide health benefits for almost all groups and ages. The authors of the paper are Dr. Javaid Sheikh, dean of WCM-Q, Dr. Ravinder Mamtani, professor of population health sciences and vice dean for population health and lifestyle medicine, Dr. Sohaila Cheema, associate professor of clinical population health sciences and assistant dean for the Institute for Population Health, and Dr. Sathyanarayanan Doraiswamy.

Dr. Mamtani explained that using the World Cup to boost participation in sports would be in line with Qatar’s existing efforts to promote healthy behaviors through Qatar National Sports Day, the country’s sustainability strategy, and campaigns such as Generation Amazing.

He said: “Qatar has already shown huge commitment to the promotion of healthy lifestyles with Qatar National Sports Day, by investing in world-class sports infrastructure at both elite and grassroots levels, and with the flagship Generation Amazing campaign. This research highlights the unique opportunity the FIFA World Cup 2022™ holds for Qatar to inspire people all over the region to embrace healthy, active lifestyles through participation in recreational soccer and other sports, and for the healthcare sector to incorporate lifestyle medicine approaches into conventional medicine.”

Dr. Sheikh added: “Lifestyle medicine is an emergent discipline in healthcare that seeks to prevent, treat and in some cases reverse non-communicable diseases through lifestyle measures such as healthy diet, good nutrition practices, physical activity, stress management, healthy sleep habits, and tobacco cessation. This is in contrast with the curative focus of conventional healthcare approaches.” 

The paper lists a number of recommendations, which include the establishment of clinical lifestyle medicine programs, use of famous soccer stars to promote healthy lifestyles, promotion of soccer to middle-aged and older people as well as the youth, support lower impact forms of soccer for older people, and routine collection of sport-specific health data as part of national health surveys.

The paper can be read in full here.