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Zarca Interactive Survey- residents become more health conscious to combat diabetes and obesity –major source of public concern

Health and fitness consciousness is growing amongst residents in Saudi Arabia where obesity and diabetes are increasing at an alarming rate. More people are integrating physical activities into their daily routine reflecting on improved health conditions, according to a latest study conducted by Zarca Interactive, a leading provider of next generation information gathering and data analysis technology.

In this study about 51% of respondents exercise between one to three times per week compared to 34% exercising three times a week in the previous study. The most favorite fitness activities among respondents are walking 86%, aerobics 29% and weight training 13% (especially among males), the study shows.

Obesity is fast turning out to be a major cause of concern for the Kingdom with seven out of 10 Saudis suffering from obesity, and 37% of Saudi women facing problems related to overweight. A recent study revealed that a whopping SR500m per year was spent by people suffering from obesity in the Kingdom on treatment. Diabetes, which is prevalent among a large section of Saudis, including women, has spread at an alarming rate of 30% in the past 10 years.

A recent World Health Organization (WHO) statistics show that there are about 1.6 billion adults world-wide who are obese. Nearly 60% of the population aged over 16 in the Kingdom was overweight, placing the country in the 29th position among 194 countries.

Many respondents in this study have shown better balanced eating habits, focusing more on consuming healthy low fat food options. About 59% of respondents have expressed that healthy eating should comprise of a mixture of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Also, about 46% of respondents prefer to consume low-fat food options, especially when it comes to dairy products. High carbohydrate food such as rice, pasta, bread, etc.., are considered to be the most important daily component for a healthy diet, as about 36% of respondents consume it on a daily basis. Other daily food options for respondents include fresh fruits 32%, leafy vegetables 26%, chicken 11% and nuts 7%.

About 77% of respondents get most of their health and fitness knowledge from online websites and forums. Also, TV programs still play a major role when it comes to raising health and fitness awareness among residents as about 76% frequently watch health and fitness TV programs.

The 5th nation- wide online health independent study conducted since 2009 in KSA witnessed the participation of about 228 respondents across different cities. The participants’ age group ranged between 16 and 55 years old across different gender split. The respondent base of the survey included different nationalities, with majority being Saudi citizens and Arab Expats. This health and fitness study was conducted using Zarca Interactive’s online technology and different social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc..).

The level of involvement in public and private health and fitness campaigns is still at minimum with about 19% of respondents actively taking a role in them. About 57% of respondents have participated in the obesity campaign, compared to about 36% participating in Diabetic campaign.

“Zarca’s health and fitness study results have shown that some eating habits in KSA have changed from unhealthy options to a healthier one combined with getting physically active,” said Javed Farooqui, Zarca Interactive Executive Director & Head Middle East and Africa. “In this study, many respondents have expressed a great interest in searching for health and fitness information from different sources, which shows that there is a growing awareness of the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle,” Javed added.

There is a noticeable decrease of the number of respondents (13%) who prefer to smoke to relieve stress. Most respondents prefer to either watch TV (22%) or surf the internet (18%) as ways to decrease boredom and relieve stress.

Regular health check- ups are on the rise among respondents, as about 16% of respondents have kept a record of their visits to their dentist every six months. Also, about 32% of respondents have regular checkups with their GP on an annual level. The trend to visit a dietitian to regularly check one’s weight is still picking up as only 6% of respondents have expressed their interest to have this visit every three to six months.

Zarca Interactive has been conducting periodic studies since 2009, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility. The objectives of these studies are to measure health and fitness habits of GCC citizens and residents, and to bring to light solutions which impact the national programs carried out by the Ministry of Health and other government and civil institutions.