Exercise Is Medicine Department


Aspetar’s Exercise Is Medicine (EIM) Department is aimed at changing a current inactive lifestyle to one that includes exercise, an understanding of nutrition, and an overall better health.

The EIM Department believe that a rapid change in everyday life must be undertaken to combat Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), which represent a clear threat not only to human health, but also to development and economic growth.

Startling statistics show that more than 60% of all deaths worldwide are attributed to NCDs, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic pulmonary diseases. Addressing the risks involved can substantially lower these figures. Unhealthy nutritional habits, smoking and physical inactivity in particular constitute the most common risk factors that result in NCDs as the leading cause of ill health.

It has been proven that active lifestyles have a positive impact on health and emotional well-being, and are associated with a healthier, longer life with a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and some cancers.

Other long-term benefits of physical activity include combating weight gain, improving mental health and developing overall well-being, all of which prevent the onset of chronic lifestyle NCDs.

Promoting a healthy lifestyle is one of the main strategic objectives of Qatar’s National Health Strategy (NHS), with Aspetar and the Aspire Zone Foundation (AZF) objectives being to reduce the burden of NCDs among the population of Qatar.

In addition to these objectives, EIM’s mission is to:

  • Reverse lifestyle related risk factors by creating a world-class comprehensive lifestyle intervention programme that is culturally accepted and based on best clinical practice.
  • Create multi-disciplinary, integrated and comprehensive lifestyle programmes facilitated through a variety of channels to achieve large-scale coverage to the people of Qatar.

EIM have implemented numerous projects and activities successfully, including Qatar Active Schools (QAS), Step into Health (SIH), Namat for a Healthy Life Web-platform and magazine and Exercise is Medicine Qatar (EIMQ) Clinics and Courses.

Major Initiatives

Step Into Health

Namat Platform

Exercise Is Medicine

Complementary Initiatives

National Physical Activity Guidelines

Aspetar’s forward thinking initiatives include taking the lead in co-ordinating the development of the National Physical Activity Guidelines. This involvement is testimony of Aspetar’s Aspetar’s commitment, through EIM, to address the risk factors of NCDs, inform health care practitioners of the benefits of exercise, and help improve the overall health of the population of Qatar.

In creating Qatar’s National Physical Activity Guidelines, EIM has used a participatory approach by both seeking and utilising local and international expertise, and by engaging major stakeholders in the development process.

Comprised of leading national and international experts in the field of physical activity, a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) was formed and then divided into three sub-groups: Children and Young People, Adults and Older Adults, and People with Medical Conditions.

EIM ensures that each sub-group works extensively on reviewing the latest studies and research, and are therefore able to provide appropriate recommendations on physical activity participation for the prevention and treatment of NCDs within their population section of interest.

Qatar’s National Physical Activity Guidelines were presented to the public at the 1st National Conference on Physical Activity and Health, which was held on 3rd and 4th February 2014.

Qatar Active Schools

EIM’s Qatar Active Schools (QAS) has been developed as a direct response to the rise in childhood obesity, now ranked as one of the most severe public health challenges of the 21st century.

1 out of 3 Qatari children is overweight, and 1 out of 10 is obese. Childhood obesity has serious consequences, including premature death and disability in adulthood, and as these rates continue to rise, EIM has taken the initiative to ensure physical activity is highlighted at an early age by launching Qatar Active Schools.

Children spend as much as 30% of their waking hours in schools, and as physical activity is essential for the healthy growth and development of every child, enhancing academic performance as well as health, QAS are making schools part of the solution.

Qatar Active Schools is an evidence-based best practice model to enhance the physical, mental, and social development of every child in Qatar by incorporating physical activity into the culture of schools and sustaining it through school, family and community partnerships.

The programme aims to promote inclusive and diverse physical activity opportunities throughout the school day, and to make healthy choices easy for the entire school community, including students, teachers and school administrators.

Qatar Active Schools is being delivered in stages across all schools within Qatar, the first stage of which was implemented in September 2014. EIM is committed to increasing the physical activity of children in Qatar by 20%, and the target is to integrate Qatar Active Schools programme into 75% of Qatar schools by 2020.

Summer Mall & Dome Walking Initiatives

The Mall Walking Initiative is an SIH summer campaign that consists of an integrated set of events within select malls of Doha, including Villaggio Mall, Landmark Mall, Hyatt Plaza and Al Khor Mall, where the public can learn more about the SIH programme and its benefits.

Environmental conditions and extreme heat during the summer season have a strong impact on the lives of people who are forced to spend most of their time indoors. Mall Walks are a form of physical activity in which people ‘brisk walk’ along the corridors of shopping malls.

There are numerous benefits of Mall Walks:

  • You can walk every day
  • In the mornings when the shopping malls are open, but prior to the opening hours of the stores, is a great time as it is less busy
  • You have access to the mall’s facilities, and the indoor climate provides a comfortable and weather-proof environment for physical activity, as well as accessibility to restrooms.

SIH encourage this activity by placement of signs and maps (provided by SIH) with mall walking routes that contain distances and number of steps.

The Health Promoting Mall (HPM) framework provides recognition that a mall is contributing to the development of a supportive environment that has a positive impact on the health and well being of the population in Qatar.

In addition, Aspire Zone Foundation offers the use of its facilities for all members of the public during the summer season, and has also introduced an indoor venue, the Aspire Dome, for them to participate in ‘Walk in the Dome’.

Winter SIH in Parks and Walking Ways

These campaigns support linkages to walking routes physically, through walking signage and floor prints, and virtually, through providing interactive step-counted walking route maps through the programme’s website and phone application.

Walking routes have been developed in Aspire Park and Barzan Olympic Park, and SIH provide walking maps with distances and steps counts. Theses maps are available in the parks as well as on the SIH website (www.stepintohealth.qa)

Be an active Campus & workplace challenge

Step into Health in Campuses is a healthy lifestyle campaign for students and staff within the campuses of Qatar that promotes walking and its healthy aspects, such as improving self-esteem, self-perception, body image, nutrition, digestion and reduced stress levels, as well as preventing many NCDs.

The initiative was launched in November 2013, and includes 3,680 participants from 11 universities in Qatar. EIM’s Step into Health in Campuses initiative follows AZF’s support of the Qatar National Vision 2030, one of the aims of which is to encourage Qatar to become a more active and healthier nation.

SIH Workplace Initiative

The Workplace initiative promotes an active lifestyle for employees offering numerous challenges within organisations.

Two-thirds of the average person’s waking hours is spent at work, so including more activity in the workplace creates valuable time to assist in creating better health.

Employers can help their employees to increase their overall health and fitness levels while improving workplace moral, increasing productivity, and reducing sickness and / or absence whilst creating a happier, healthier and more energetic workforce.

It is recommended that adults do a minimum of 30 minutes of activity five times every week.  The activity should be intensive enough to make you breath harder and feel warmer than normal, but still be able to carry on a conversation.

Anything that makes you more active will make a positive difference, such as a ten-minute walk at lunchtime, or climbing the stairs instead of taking the lift; it all counts towards your weekly 150-minute activity goal.