Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini highlights that the federation has continued to inspire fitness and wellbeing for all ages, genders and abilities despite the pandemic

Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) Managing Director, Ms. Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini, joined experts from Indonesia, Japan and Taiwan for an online webinar about sports initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hosted by The Association for International Sport for All (TAFISA), the virtual conference took place on August 7, under the title ‘How we face COVID-19 and Prepare for a New Start’, with more than 50 members participating in the session from all around the Asian region and further afield.

The Chairman of TAFISA, Professor Ju-Ho Chang opened the session adding that TAFISA is a source of support not just in times of crisis but for the recovery post Covid-19. Alongside Ms. Al-Husseini were Mr. Hayono Isman, Chairman of Indonesia’s FORMI, Mr. Masanori Tamazawa, Secretary General of Japan’s Sasakawa Foundation, and Dr. Hank Huang, Director of Sports Innovation at APEC Sports Policy Network, based in Taiwan.

During the broadcast Ms. Al-Husseini explained that the pandemic prompted SFA to broaden its digital offering, ensuring people of all ages and abilities were supported and motivated to practice a healthy lifestyle. This included the Healthy Living portal on the SFA website which provided guidance and advice ranging from simple exercises that anyone could practice at home to healthy eating tips, and advice on family fitness activities. Initiatives were also launched to engage a wide range of people, such as Baytak Nadeek (Your Home, Your Gym), which encouraged people to exercise at home and reached more than 3.8 million participants by May 2020.

Slide from TAFISA webinar highlighting some of the SFA’s programs during the pandemic

An online Women’s Fitness Festival and corporate exercise challenges were also organized, as well as the Move to Game program, which has attracted nearly 150,000 participants to date. Additionally, the Step Together series of walk and run events was launched in July, with people of all backgrounds, ages, gender and capability getting involved in their homes and neighborhoods.

Ms. Al-Husseini explained that COVID-19 participation research in April and May showed the success of the SFA’s response to the pandemic, with an increase in activity among adults – especially females. But the hard work of the SFA in boosting healthy practices started years earlier, with the foundation’s five-year national participation survey showing that physical participation levels increased from 13% in 2015 to 25% in 2019. She added that this growth is in line with SFA’s vision to inspire and promote a healthy lifestyle to all members of society.

“Our focus is to impact behaviour change and we are mandated to increase physical activity levels to 40% across the population by 2030,” she said. A new five-year strategy has also been developed to instill an active mindset from childhood onwards, as well as providing increased opportunities to participate in physical activity through well planned public spaces. “This will ensure our vigilance to deliver SFA’s mandate in the ‘new normal’,” she said as the discussion drew to a close.

Related: Saudi Greens team players highlight UN Sustainable Development Goals through virtual workout series

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