National Sport Day was first celebrated in Qatar in 2012 and the ocassion provides an excellent opportunity to unite the country’s residents to take part in fun sporting activities.

But there is another essential aspect to National Sport Day. The date is also a timely reminder for the promotion of healthy living and to raise awareness why an active and sensible lifestyle is important in keeping diseases at bay.

Qatar Biomedical Research Institute (QBRI), part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, was launched in the same year as the first National Sport Day. The similarity does not end there as QBRI also actively encourages a healthy lifestyle. It does so to improve and transform healthcare through innovation in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the Qatari population and the region.

QBRI has three centres of excellence – the Cancer Research Center, the Diabetes Research Center and Neurological Disorders Research Center – and all three encourage staying active and eating well to reduce the risk of disease.

QBRI Encourages Residents to ExerciseThe Cancer Research Center focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular basis of cancer initiation and progression with a focus on breast cancer, which is the most common type of cancer among females globally.

Dr Eyad Elkord, a Principal Investigator at the Cancer Research Center, said that maintaining a healthy lifestyle lowers the risk of cancer onset and different studies showed that significant numbers of cancer deaths are due to lifestyle-related risk factors. Exercise controls tumor growth by mobilising immune cells within the body.

Regular exercise and healthy eating habits maintain stability within the body, known as hemostasis, and could help prevent cancer initiation. Aerobic and cardiovascular exercises, coupled with a balanced and nutrient-rich diet, are highly recommended for healthy individuals as well as cancer patients undergoing treatment.’

The Diabetes Research Center serves as a catalyst to promote innovative research on both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and related metabolic disorders. Its primary goal is to gain fundamental knowledge and enhance the understanding of social, molecular and genetic causes of the disease.

Dr Paul Thornalley, Director of the Diabetes Research Center, said that exercise is good for the health of diabetics, whether they have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Exercise also decrease the risk of complications in diabetes.

Patients with Type 1 diabetes should check with their physician before taking on a new exercise routine to plan how to best manage their blood glucose and insulin injections accordingly.

He said that for Type 2 diabetes, which is often associated with being overweight and obesity, exercise is a good way to control and improve body weight, the body’s responsiveness to insulin and blood glucose control. Particularly, in recently-diagnosed Type 2 diabetes, exercise may help along with a decreased calorie intake to reverse the development of diabetes.

In overweight and obese people, doing more exercise and eating in moderation to lose weight will help prevent developing Type 2 diabetes. Recommended is about two-and-a-half hours’ exercise per week.

The Neurological Disorders Research Center focuses on investigating neural conditions of increasing prevalence in Qatar and the region. These ailments are wide-ranging and include autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Yongsoo Park, a scientist at the Neurological Disorders Research Center, said that neurological disorders result from problems of the central and peripheral nervous system but physical exercises and activities can make our nervous system active and healthy, and therefore reduce the risk of neurological disorders.

Physical exercise leads to and increases neurogenesis (creating new neurons), neuroplasticity (improving neural networks) and synaptic transmission (enhancing neurotransmitter release and improving brain function) so the neurological benefits of exercise is significant. For elderly people, yoga, walking, running and swimming are highly recommended, but a healthy diet, good sleep and staying socially engaged with friends and family is also beneficial.

We should be doing everything we can to lead a healthy lifestyle. That means eating well, exercising, avoiding harmful things, getting enough sleep and avoiding stress.