Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon, Chairman of the Department of Transport, Dr. Mugheer Al Khaili, Chairman of Health Authority Abu Dhabi and Director General of Abu Dhabi Education Council, and Ali Al Dhaheri, Managing Director of Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, all took to two wheels to demonstrate their passion for cycling.
The second annual #cycletoworkuae day takes place on Tuesday, when commuters are encouraged to use pedal power rather than horsepower.
Sheikh Sultan said the event carried the important message that people should make exercise part of their daily routine.
“It’s a great initiative to promote a healthy and active lifestyle,” said Sheikh Sultan.
“There’s a heavy reliance on using cars, as the residents are capable of purchasing cars and the infrastructure makes driving the most attractive option of transportation. However, we want to improve public transport and biking.”
The UAE’s hot summers make cycling more difficult, he said.
“Yes, we do have three or four months where the weather does not help,” he said. “However, there’s nothing stopping us from using other forms of transportation – weather permitting.”
Cycling, and exercise, is a passion for Dr. Al Khaili and one he hopes others can introduce to their lives. “As a young nation, our lives have changed significantly – we went from a life full of physical activity to one of sedentary existence after our modernization,” he said of the transition from more traditionally physical work to office jobs.
“There was no doubt a change in the pace of life, and in that exercise was lost.”
Cycling, he said, was a great way to weave physical activity back into our lives.
“We hope that people encourage themselves now to get more involved in exercise.”
Statistics showed that only 20 per cent of the adult population in the UAE engaged in the daily recommended 30 minutes of exercise and only 40 per cent of young people did the 60 minutes of physical activity that is considered healthy.
The genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes in Arab people was made worse by sedentary lifestyles, Dr Al Khaili said.
While all types of sport are recommended, Dr. Al Khaili believed cycling had advantages over other kinds of exercise.
“Biking is immensely enjoyable because it doesn’t focus on just the exercise aspect but also places a heavy emphasis on social connections,” he said.
Cycling also benefited mental health as well as the physical as it helped people wind down and relax said Dr. Khaili.
“Today, with the stress of work and the challenges of modern life, we are constantly trying to make the best use of our time and we are turning to the fastest mode of transportation at the cost of neglecting ourselves.”
He added that the more people that took up cycling, the more it would become acceptable.
“Maybe we are a community that is at first surprised of new ideas, but I think at the same time we are very welcome to adapt beneficial changes,” he said.
“An idea that was weird or new a few years ago has now become adopted, and I think cycling can become that.
“To that person who is thinking of cycling but is unsure, yes the first time you might feel hesitant, maybe embarrassed at first, but once you try, I think it not only becomes addictive but a passion.”