More great news this year for Saudi Arabia: research by the General Sports Authority (GSA) shows that there has been a significant increase in the number of Saudis who are embracing sports and exercise and trying to get healthy. The results of the GSA’s second survey showed that 23 percent of Saudi citizens over the age of 15 now exercise once a week, a significant jump from 13 percent three years ago.
According to Arab News, the GSA conducted its first National Sports Survey in 2015 and defined active people who participate in sports as “individuals who engage in a specific type of physical activity i.e. planned, structured, and repetitive for the main purpose of improving health and maintaining fitness, at least once a week.”
The findings of that survey, which showed just 13 percent of the population were engaged in active lifestyles at the time, were a wake-up call for the Kingdom and helped shape aggressive targets to support mass participation within Vision 2030. The Vision, an ambitious national plan aimed at transforming Saudi Arabia’s economy, also set measures to ensure the country’s citizens lead healthy lifestyles, with a focus on sports, exercise, and recreational activities.
Now, in the first quarter of 2018, the GSA conducted its second National Sports Survey, tracking sporting participation at all levels, with results pointing to the staggering 10 percent increase. In addition, the results mean that the GSA has beat its interim Vision 2030 target of getting 20 percent of Saudis over 15 years old exercising by 2020.
Princess Reema Bint Bander, President of the Mass Participation Federation, explained that the improvements reflect the societal changes in culture and attitudes led by Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s ambitious plan to transform its economy and society, as well as the increased support of Saudi women, apparent in the number of women that are now open to engaging in exercising and physical activity.
“It’s important to recognize that this is a family movement. Men and women, boys and girls, young and old, are responding and are proving, as we believe at the GSA, that sport is for all,” she explained.
Chairman of the GSA, Turki Al-Shaikh, attributed the success of the last three years of efforts to the Kingdom’s leaders, saying, “Thanks to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s continuous support to the sport sector in the Kingdom, this achievement was possible.”
Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the GSA, said, “This result is a huge motivator for us to work even harder. These efforts have generated a positive reaction from the people of Saudi Arabia to improve the quality of their lives.”
The GSA, which established the Mass Participation Federation, the main body responsible for increasing participation in sports in the Kingdom, has been working on several important initiatives since 2015 including work by the gym sector to expand offerings and services, including the opening and licensing of female-only gyms.