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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: The “Riyadh Walkers” initiative was started by Hassan Al-Felo, Saleh Al-Ansar, Abdul Karim Al-Saghir, Mohamed Al-Ruwaili and Nasser Al-Balawi. The group began with walking in King Abdullah Park in Riyadh every Friday at dawn.
With the help of their campaigning and through word-of-mouth, 22 groups from various neighborhoods in Riyadh have already joined up, numbering at almost 1,000 members.
Abdul Mohsen Al-Rasini, CEO of the Riyadh Walkers Initiative, said that “the initiative seeks to form the largest number of teams that practice walking in the neighborhoods of Riyadh.
“This will be by support from the development associations in every neighborhood, if any, or through individual efforts of the residents, where they practice walking collectively on one day of the week by agreement between each other via communication applications and walking programs,” he said.
To stay informed about walking sessions and updates, participants join a WhatsApp group. A Nike app tracks their walking activity and provides them with goals and milestones to motivate them.
Al-Rasini said that the Riyadh Walkers is a volunteer-run organization that seeks to inspire.
“These initiatives aim for sustainability and making a culture walking as a way of life and a habit rooted in the society, to contribute to achieving the Saudi Vision 2030, in its various fields including health, sports and volunteer,” he said.
Al-Rasini said that increasing physical fitness, promoting health and elevating the standard of living are the primary objectives of walking practice and culture.
Every Friday morning there is a walking session that lasts about 90 minutes; other groups have different times. It is frequently posted on the X platform’s @musha_riy account.
Al-Rasini emphasized the support aspect of the initiative: “Many people start walking for a number of reasons and then stop and may or may not return to this important healthy habit. Here, the idea of creating a stimulating environment to practice walking in groups appeared.”
The program challenges individuals to adopt walking as a daily routine and way of life by encouraging commitment and discipline.
Al-Rasini said that the goal is to have more walking teams. To accomplish this, the program has collaborated with Riyadh neighborhood development associations to form clubs under the name “Our Neighborhoods Walk.”
“The initiative is inviting, motivating and encouraging the residents of the neighborhoods through the team WhatsApp group, as well as accounts on social media and advertising the programs and activities through publishing clips and pictures of the events,” Al-Rasini said.
He said that one of the monthly goals is to walk 150 km at a rate of 5 km a day.
There is also the “Stories of Riyadh Walkers” project, where members of the initiative talk about the benefits they reaped after joining and committing to walking and healthy eating.
“The initiative also launched the ‘Riyadh Walkers Ambassadors Project,’ which is concerned with spreading the culture of walking outside the city of Riyadh and integrating walking with tourism to achieve continuity and avoid stopping the practice of walking,” Al-Rasini said.
Ali Al-Majali learned about the initiative from his friend, and his first participation was during the two-year anniversary celebration of Riyadh Walkers: “I was suffering from gout at the time and the doctor told me to practice sports, so I decided to join the Riyadh Walkers initiative.
“The groups made it easier to continue walking in these stimulating environments, and thanks to Allah, I recovered from gout and was able to lose weight,” he said.
“I advise others to practice sports, walking in particular. I hope they step up and benefit from the experiences and stories of walkers and to get rid of obesity and chronic diseases,” Al-Majali said.
Anas Al-Ateeq, a member of the initiative, learned about Riyadh Walkers through the X platform, and joined the initiative in 2017. “I was looking for groups that would help me continue with sports activity,” he said. “Joining the initiative helped me lose a lot of weight, and I was able to change many wrong lifestyles.”
Bandar Al-Shahrani is a new member who learned about the initiative through the “Walk 30 Minutes” event that was organized by the Ministry of Health.
“I am strongly committed to the training schedule set by the initiative organizers. I believe that this has had a major positive impact on my health and increased my fitness. I became able to walk long distances without fatigue,” Al-Shahrani said.
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