Saudi parents embrace child fitness culture

Wael Kayal coaches children at the 305 Lifestyle Venue in Jeddah. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 10 September 2018
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Saudi parents embrace child fitness culture

  • As well as improving their physical health, fitness classes will help their brain development and socializing skills, says coach Wael Kayal
  • It’s important to get them started at an early age, so they can grow up with a love for sports: Saudi mother

JEDDAH: Parents in the Kingdom are becoming more aware of the benefits of enrolling their children in fitness classes at a young age.

Former Al-Ahli footballer and Saudi international Wael Kayal, now a coach who runs a youth program at 305 Lifestyle Venue in Jeddah, ensures that children stay healthy through his fitness program and stresses the importance of enrolling them at an early stage.

“It is super important for children to start being active from a young age. Our program is more tailored for kids starting at the age of five, as they have better listening habits, concentration, commitment and social awareness,” Kayal, 43, told Arab News. “The sooner the better they develop the athletic fundamentals that are necessary.” 

He explained that every child differs in their ability owing to their lifestyle: “You can have a five-year-old developed and ready to move on to more speed development and strength conditioning, and a 12-year-old coming in overweight who has never exercised and you have to go back to develop their ABCs.”

Wael Kayal

Kayal is eager to encourage the children to stay committed to a healthier lifestyle and uses a very careful, considered approach. “You cannot be forceful with these kids because they already might have some insecurities. We take our time and go at a slower pace so that the child stays committed and sees results eventually,” he said.

The coach says sports shape a child’s character. “Our program is designed not only for kids to benefit from athletics but to develop their overall lifestyle. That includes eating habits, sleep habits and lifestyle choices. We have kids who come from a variety of schools in Jeddah, yet they all become friends and it helps them to become extrovert and confident. In the last half-hour of our program, they sit and mingle, enjoy smoothies and fruit, and play a team sport: football, dodgeball or sand volleyball. This is fun and it helps with their socializing skills after our workouts.”

Kayal’s message to parents is to “keep your kids committed. Communicate with your kids daily about the choices they are making. This stage in their lives will develop their habits for life. Visit your kids’ activities once in a while and give them positive feedback on their achievements, however small. This keeps them going. I can do my part, the child can do theirs and the parent does their part. This is a recipe for success.”

Arab News talked to a number of parents of the children enrolled at 305 Lifestyle.

Khloud Nazer, 43, a Saudi full-time mother, said: “It’s important to get them started at an early age, so they can grow up with a love for sports and to learn these healthy lifestyle habits early.”

She believes sports have an effect on the child’s character growing up: “Once they start developing their muscles and they see that they’re fit, it builds their confidence and that definitely trickles into other aspects of their life — it helps with their self-esteem. And that’s definitely going to help them when they grow up.”

She said she sees an increase in parents adopting this healthy culture for children, “especially with the younger generation now and the new parents. I’ve seen a lot more educated parents who are very careful about what their children are eating and what they do during the day. There definitely is a rise.”

Her advice to fellow parents is to “start your kids on a program from a young age, because this will be built into their habits. You see a lot of children who are obese and these things really break my heart. It’s avoidable. Instilling healthy eating habits and lifestyle habits and staying active is important for all children.”

Sociologist Reem Al-Saigh, 36, said: “Our parents didn’t raise this habit when we were younger. That is why I want to instill these habits in my children, as young as they are now.”

Al-Saigh said sports have an effect on the child’s cognitive abilities as well. “It will give them a stronger personality, and physical activity has an impact on the growth of their brain. It will make them more productive in their studying or when it comes to socializing with people.”

She applauds 305 Lifestyle for the number of children whom they teach these important habits. “Obesity can often be seen in young kids these days. This new type of awareness and the number of kids I see here today is very impressive.”

Thirty-three-year-old Jeddah Sondos Hajji, owner of Baby Sensory,??  said: “It is very important for children to run and play, especially after long hours at school. They should be doing this and playing sports throughout the day, not playing on  electronics.”

Sports builds their character from a young age, she said, “and also their cognitive and coordination skills.”


Putin welcomes Saudi delegation at St. Petersburg cultural forum

Updated 18 November 2018
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Putin welcomes Saudi delegation at St. Petersburg cultural forum

JEDDAH: Russian President Vladimir Putin warmly welcomed Saudi Arabia’s delegation to the 7th St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum as one of the main guest countries attending the annual event.
The delegation was headed by Saudi Minister of Culture, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, who posted a selfie with Putin on his Twitter account.
“We responded to the invitation from our friends in Russia to participate in the St. Petersburg cultural forum, and it was an opportunity to meet with officials to promote cultural cooperation,” the post said.


The forum, which ran from Nov. 15-17, was held under the theme “Culture as a Strategic Potential of the Country,” was attended by visitors from 101 countries.
Opening the forum, the Russian president expressed hope that the event would develop fruitful dialogue between society and the state.
Putin said the forum gives others a chance to get to know Russia more closely, stressed that “what distinguishes his country is the diversity of languages and traditions.”
During the visit the Saudi minister held talks with the Russian president on the sidelines of the event.
He also met his Italian counterpart, Alberto Bonisoli, on the sidelines of the forum to discuss areas of joint cooperation between the two countries and means of enhancing Saudi-Italian cultural relations.
“I was delighted to meet with the Italian Minister of Culture and we have many opportunities for a future of strong cooperation between the two countries,” Prince Badr tweeted.

Bonisoli said that culture is “a means of communication” for politics, even when serious international crises occur.
“If there are problems between two or more countries, according to their positions, culture is still a way to convey the messages of partnerships, communities, politicians, and sometimes to promote fundamental values,” he added.
The St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum annually attracts thousands of experts in the field of culture from all over the world.
Stars of theater, opera and ballet, renowned directors and musicians, public figures, representatives of and academic communities, all attend the event.
The year’s program includes 14 pavilions, including museums, circuses, theaters, cinema, literature, tourism, folklore and popular culture.