Prevention of Weight Gain

With overweight and obesity so prevalent in the Arab Gulf, prevention of weight gain among children, young people, and those not yet overweight is of paramount importance. The reasons why any individual gains weight will vary; however, factors contributing to weight gain and obesity have been identified at a population level in a systematic review of evidence1.

Factors PROTECTIVE against weight gain include:

Regular physical activity: key for preventing weight gain
High intake of dietary fibre: lowers the energy density of the diet and promotes satiety
Consumption of regular meals: this helps to avoid snacking on energy dense foods
Portion size control: increasing portion sizes are likely to be contributing to the rise on obesity
Reducing intakes of energy dense foods: frequent consumption of energy dense foods increases risk of obesity (energy dense foods are those that are high in fat and/or sugar and low in fibre)
Limiting intake of heavily sweetened soft drinks
Limiting intake of fast foods

Physical activity guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that healthy adults 18–64 years of age should accumulate at least 150 min of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week2. According to statistics from the WHO in 2008, 31% of people 15 years of age and older worldwide had insufficient levels of physical activity3. However, rates in the Arab Gulf are far higher than this - a study conducted in the region revealed that only 40% of men and 27% of women reported that they were physically active for at least 150 min per week4. Similarly, in Qatar, nearly 50% of young adults 18–19 years of age had insufficient levels of physical activity, and this rate increased substantially with age5: Among people 60–69 years of age, 75% had insufficient levels of physical activity.

Promoting increased levels of physical activity in the Arab Gulf presents a number of challenges due to the hot climate, limitations of traditional dress, cultural expectations and norms, and lack of exercise facilities6. The WHO Plan of Action for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in the Eastern Mediterranean Region holds promotion of physical activity as one of its six key objectives for the region7. Awareness and promotion of culturally appropriate opportunities for men, women and children to be more active in your geographical area of work is key to the promotion of better health today and prevention of unwanted weight gain in the future.



  1. Swinburn BA et al (2004) Diet, nutrition and the prevention of excess weight gain and obesity. Public Health Nutrition 7: 123-146
  2. Global recommendations on physical activity for health. World Health Organization (WHO). (2011) Accessed at:
  3. The prevalence of insufficient physical activity. World Health Organization (WHO). (2008). Accessed at:
  4. Mabry RM et al (2010) Evidence of physical activity participation among men and women in the countries of the Gulf cooperation council: a review. Obes Rev 11: 457–464.
  5. Chanpong GF. Qatar 2006 World Health Survey Overview. Department of Public Health National Health Authority, Qatar. (2008)
  6. Benjamin K & Donnelly TT (2013) Barriers and facilitators influencing the physical activity of Arabic adults: A literature review Avicenna 2013:8
  7. World Health Organisation (2011) Plan of action for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases in the Eastern Mediterranean Region Accessed on line August 2014 at: