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

The research discovered that almost 50% of adults and 75% of young people in MENA countries do not meet the level of physical activity recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). 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 teens. Lack of physical activity is a key risk factor for obesity and other non-communicable diseases (NCD), such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which frequently lead to severe life-limiting complications and premature death.

WCM-Q Professor Dr Ravinder Mamtani, who is one of the authors of the study, said that non-communicable diseases now account for around 41 million deaths worldwide each year, which works out at 71% 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.

The MENA region has some of the highest rates of NCD in the world, and the second-highest prevalence of diabetes (10.8%) compared to other regions in the world.

The study titled ‘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 the 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 research 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 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 at the WCM-Q 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.

Other researchers who worked on the study include IPH Director Dr Sohaila Cheema, Dr Karima Chaabna and Dr Amit Abraham.

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.

She said that the study also highlights the need for a systematic data collection across the MENA region regarding levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviour, as well as rates of associated non-communicable diseases, to better understand the situation and determine which interventions are most effective, specific to Qatar.


IPH has been at the forefront of lending full support to the overall goal of promoting healthy lifestyles in Qatar. The paper can be read in full through this LINK.

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