Why UAE is pushing residents to walk with family, friends within neighbourhoods

Walking at night
UAE residents are being urged to gather with friends, family and neighbours and walk in their residential communities.
Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE’s official Year of Sustainability initiative is now going all out to get residents to organise walks with their family and friends in their neighbourhoods, in a concerted effort to promote mindful movement and a sustainable social life.

The community-led event, called Community Steps, has been launched under the slogan ‘Plan to Action’ to encourage people to adopt a greener lifestyle.

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Eisa Alsubousi, Project Lead, Year of Sustainability, UAE, told Gulf News: “We encourage the public to gather with friends, family and neighbours and walk in their residential communities, whether to go to the local grocery store, spend more time in nature, grab a cup of tea or coffee or exercise together. They can also join any walking groups or communities, offering a great chance for people to connect whilst being more active.”

Eisa Alsubousi

He said Community Steps is aimed at helping people achieve a more carbon-neutral lifestyle and a greener form of movement, whilst inspiring them to have meaningful shared experiences in their public spaces. There is no better time than Ramadan to begin this community-led initiative, as this is the month for mindfulness, reflection and conscious choices, he added.

Four key areas

As sustainability initiatives go, the UAE’s focus in 2024 will largely be on four key areas: Green transportation, responsible consumption, water and energy reduction and planting green.

Now, how can this be achieved in day-to-day living?

“In many ways,” said Alsubousi.

Carpooling is one way of reducing one’s carbon footprint in day-to-day living.
Image Credit: Gulf News. For illustrative purposes only.

“Carpooling with friends and family, walking or using scooters and bicycles for shorter distances; using public transportation and electric cars where possible; and even considering how our socialising and entertainment habits can be more sustainable, such as spending time in nature with friends and family rather than opting for activities that would negatively contribute to the sustainability footprint,” he explained.

“When you approach sustainability as a conscious lifestyle choice, collectively it makes a significant positive impact on the environment,” he reasoned.

Active Abu Dhabi Challenge
The Active Abu Dhabi Challenge held between March 18 and 31 at Umm Al Emarat Park encouraged individuals to take 6,000 steps per day. The response from both children and adults was significant, according to the Year of Sustainability initiative.

Earlier, Abdulla Al Remeithi, member, Year of Sustainability Experts’ Network, said: “Carbon emissions from petrol cars are the second highest source of pollution in the UAE, so initiatives such as Community Steps are valuable in promoting a carbon-neutral lifestyle and encouraging the public to consider alternative forms of transportation whenever possible, such as walking or cycling for short-distance trips and sharing transport with friends and family.”

Walking with neighbours helps foster a sense of community belonging, even as it promotes one’s own physical and mental health.
Image Credit: Supplied

He said, “There is also the UAE Environmental Identity app that was launched in 2023 during COP28 which helps people in the UAE to monitor their carbon footprint generated from day-to-day activities, thus helping us assess our environmental impact in making our communities more sustainable. The concept was developed as part of the National Experts Programme and endorsed by the Ministry of Climate and Environment, Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and Mubadala.”

Share Your Community Steps
Community Steps encourages the public to share their Community Steps moments and their total number of steps by tagging ‘Year of Sustainability’ on their photos and videos @uaeyearof and use the hashtags #PlanToAction #YearOfSustainability #UAE53.

Benefits of walking

According to Dr. Mostafa Azab, Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon, Burjeel Day Surgery Centre, Al Reem, there are many benefits of walking.

Dr. Mostafa Azab

“Walking is a great way to improve your physical and mental health. Walking is a weight-burning exercise that has the benefits of increasing heart and lung fitness while reducing the risk of heart diseases and stroke, improving the management of hypertension, body balance, strengthening bones, reducing body fat, and increasing muscle endurance and strength.”

He said at least 30 minutes of brisk walking on most days of the week is needed to get health benefits. If difficult to walk for 30 minutes at one go, walk for 10 minutes three times a day and then gradually build up longer sessions, he advised.

Walking as a social activity

“Try to make walking a routine. You can ask someone to walk with you. That helps,” said Dr Azab. “You can plan for a family walk, or walk with a friend or a pet. You can also join a walking club. Try to make walking a pleasure. You can use a pedometer while walking to watch your movements throughout the day. This can motivate you to move more. Walking to lose weight requires adding an activity while walking, like walking with weights in your hands, walking uphill, walking for longer or gradually increasing your speed,” he added.