Shaping up is a hot topic in Dubai right now. January has spurred a fitness push as residents try hard to stick to their new year’s resolutions, while getting and keeping fit is becoming increasingly important in a city that has historically struggled with obesity. It’s anticipated that almost 45 percent of women in the UAE will be obese by 2015, with other figures suggesting a big part of the population is working towards a healthier lifestyle. Diabetes statistics are stagnant rather than rising, liposuction and contouring surgeries are increasingly popular, and there are more gyms than ever opening in the city. But gyms can be pricey, and even then they aren’t to everyone’s taste. With that in mind, we’ve come up with a few creative new ways to get in shape in 2013 – for nothing.
1 bag some exercise gear for free
Dubai’s Freecycle network is a great place to start if you’re looking for exercise equipment. This free recycling community enables you to give away your own unwanted property (as long as it’s in good nick) or post on the community message board stating what it is you’re looking for. You may have better luck initially with smaller requests such as dumbbells, but stick at it and you’ll be the first to know if someone decides to give away a home multigym – for nothing!
2 Start gardening
Unexpected? Perhaps. Effective? You bet. An hour spent gardening can be better for you than jogging 6km: you use more muscles and incorporate a variety of functional movements, often while bearing weight. Squatting, bending, lifting, digging, walking – all can contribute to burning between 300 and 400 calories per hour, according to research by America’s Iowa State University. Even better, plant your own healthy fruit, veg and herbs to enjoy later in the year – both your body and garden will have never looked better. See our website for tips on how to grow your own veg.
3 Try a free yoga class
Friends of Yoga holds free classes for all at locations including Deira Creek, Bur Dubai, Zabeel Park, Rashidiya Park and International City. Hosted by more than 250 trained yoga teachers who volunteer their time, classes start as early as 5am. Elsewhere, YogaFest returns to Dubai Internet City’s amphitheatre on Friday February 22, with two full days of free yoga and meditation. During a traditional yoga session (depending on intensity), you can expect to burn from 175 calories per hour.
4 Volunteer your spare time
A whole day spent moving counts as a workout. Though an activity such as painting is fairly low impact, slow, strenuous movements will see you burn about 260 calories an hour. Dubai’s Colour 4 a Cause project helps give local schools a much-needed makeover. ‘We have 15 projects, from typing up Braille books or cleaning the beach to working with special-needs kids, painting schools, cooking food in kitchens and then distributing it to labour camps,’ explains organiser Lola Lopez. ‘All you need to do is find a platform that interests you. When I see a volunteer once, I will always see them again.’
5 Swim round the Burj Al Arab
To give your swimming some focus, get training for this 1km swim – a lap round the Burj Al Arab. On Friday February 1, the annual 800m Wild Wadi swimming race returns, raising funds for Médecins Sans Frontières, a humanitarian organisation that provides medical aid in more than 60 countries. Men, women and children can compete, and everyone gets a T-shirt for their achievement. An hour of leisurely swimming burns more than 440 calories per hour, while breaststroke and fast front crawl burn about 734 and 808 calories respectively.
What’s free at the gym?
6 Try The Circuit Factory
We’re sure the Circuit Factory staff would agree with us when we say they certainly don’t take a ‘softly, softly’ approach. Prepare to be pushed to your limits during a session with these intensity-loving instructors, who are determined to get their clients to reach their goals. On Fridays they run a free introductory class for first-timers, so you can get a taste of what to expect.
Fri from 9am. The Meadows, www.circuitfactory.ae.
7 Sign up for a trial membership at Bodyworx
Bodyworx gym offers personal training as well as group exercise classes, and by filling in a form on the website you can get yourself a free week’s trial, worth more than Dhs700. All the form asks is what your goals are, what your fitness level is, and how you heard about the gym.
Murjan, JBR (04 454 2981); Rimal, JBR (04 374 6871); MotorCity, www.bodyworxme.com (04 374 0355).
8 Get a free trial with Regime Fitness
Offering bootcamps, personal training and much more, Regime takes a variety of different approaches to helping people shape up. If you’re not sure what will work best for you, the company has been known to accommodate free trials.
Various locations, www.regime.ae (055 919 7052).
9 Free gym pass or class at In Shape Ladies Fitness Club
It may look deceptively like a villa-mansion from the outside, but Jumeirah-based fitness club In Shape houses exercise studios, a gym, pampering stations and much more. Fill in a form online to be added to the gym’s database, and you can print out a three-day trial gym pass, or a pass to take part in one of the club’s numerous group classes.
Jumeirah Beach Road, www.inshapeme.com (04 395 5718).
10 Ditch your shopping trolley
Don’t push weight around – carry it. Pick up a basket, and make sure you keep swapping arms (most people have a tendency to favour weight-bearing on one side). If you live near the supermarket, leave the car at home and walk – carrying your groceries back will increase your calorie burn by more than a third, taking it to 105 calories per 30 minutes with a load of approximately 6kg, according to popular app MyFitnessPal. Make sure you’re prepared (and environmentally-friendly) and take a rucksack and your own bags with comfortable-to-hold handles.
11 Ladies: use a clutch bag
You may think that your oversized handbag is helping you burn calories by weighing you down under several kilos of miscellaneous ‘essentials’, but it’s actually making you lopsided, damaging the muscles in your back. Beyond remembering to switch shoulders often, swapping your shoulder bag for a large clutch evens out the weight distribution. It will also improve muscle tone – after a few weeks, expect to see some surprisingly definition in those arms.
12 Run up the stairs in your apartment
There’s no need to take on the whole tower, but 20 storeys should do it. Not only is stair-climbing an intense cardiovascular workout, but it’s great for toning your legs and glutes and should burn about 450 calories per 30 minutes for a person weighing 60kg, according to MyFitnessPal. ‘Stair-climbing is a concentric-only movement, thus no deceleration required, reducing shear forces on the knee,’ says Amir Siddiqui, owner and head coach at Symmetry. ‘Translation: it’s an extremely safe way to burn calories and create a metabolic spike.’
13 Endurance training on the beach
It’s easiest if you do this with a friend so you can time each other. Grab a stopwatch (or use the function on your phone), pull on a pair of trainers and hit the beach or the park. The idea is to sprint for 45 seconds, followed by a 45-second jog to recover. Repeat this three times. ‘Interval training is the way to burn body fat,’ explains Amir Siddiqui. ‘Research shows it burns up to nine times more calories than steady-state cardio. On top of that, nothing creates a sexier butt than sprinting!’
Symmetry Gym, Gold & Diamond Park, www.symmetrygymdubai.com (04 346 6479).
14 Stream free exercise videos
Sarah Noble-Nawar, studio manager and Pilates instructor at Dubai’s Zen Yoga recommends finding videos on YouTube, and streaming them on your laptop, iPad or smart TV. She suggests Balanced Body Pilates (search ‘Pilates Enthusiasts S2E26’), Booty Barre (‘Booty Barre beginners and beyond’), yoga for beginners (‘Julie Martin, beginners yoga tutorial’), and for ‘crème de la Hollywood crème’, try Tracey Anderson’s butt, abs or arms workout (‘Tracey Anderson’, and whichever body area you’re looking to tone).
www.youtube.com. Zen Yoga, various locations including Emirates Hills, www.yoga.ae (04 422 4643).
15 Befriend a Fitness First member
Enormous gym chain Fitness First has just launched its Adidas running club in Dubai Marina. It’s free for Fitness First members, and each member is entitled to bring a guest, who also runs for free. If you struggle to motivate yourself by running alone, clubs are a great solution to help you push yourself further – not to mention a fantastic way to meet new people. Running at a pace of approximately 8kph burns from 472 calories per hour.
How Time Out keeps fit!
‘I run two to three times a week, usually at Safa Park or Downtown. I try to do between 5km and 8km in each session, although I like to vary the pace – sometimes I go flat out, while other times I do intervals: jog 200m, sprint 100m, repeat for 5km. Bonus: it doesn’t cost me a dirham.’
Rebecca Milford, chief sub-editor
‘I’m forever visiting friends’ apartments so I can go to the gym in their building with them, particularly when I get bored of running the same routes near my villa. I also make an effort to walk instead of getting a cab whenever I can, even if it adds an extra hour to what I’m doing.’
Holly Sands, Body & Mind editor
‘I got really fit as a member of a ladies’ football team, playing twice a week for an hour or so. It was great fun, provided stress relief and I made good friends. Plus, we found a sponsor, so it cost us next to nothing. See dubaiwfa.com.’
Becky Lucas, editor