Dubai is one of the fittest cities in the world thanks to its number of gyms, training facilities and its annual fitness challenge where residents are encouraged to exercise for 30 minutes every day for 30 days.
But how important has the fitness industry been for people wanting to take care of their physical and mental health during the pandemic?
One of the United Arab Emirates' biggest gyms is GymNation. They were closed for 75 days at the height of the coronavirus outbreak but provided their members and non-members with access to free online classes.
Loren Holland, Co-Founder and CEO of GymNation said immediately after lockdown, they noticed a huge surge in demand for fitness.
“I think everybody had kind of previously maybe taken that health and fitness a little bit for granted and realised actually now is the time to commit to a fitness plan and fitness goals,” he said, adding, “so immediately after reopening, we saw probably the best three, four months trading that we've ever had as a business”.
During the pandemic, facilities were closed and many people sought alternatives. Dr Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and MD of The LightHouse Arabia, said a lot of people started exercising as a way of gaining a sense of control.
“It helps with your confidence, it helps with your self-esteem, but it also just releases happy chemicals. You want to lean into that when you are starting to feel a lot more out of control in your life. Just given the circumstances and your emotions.”
In 2020, the global home fitness equipment market was worth 8.9 billion euros and it has had unprecedented growth over the last 12 months.
Johnson Health Tech Middle East provides Matrix exercise machines commercially and privately. Lotfi Hamrouni is its Sales & Marketing Director and told Euronews:
“The home was about 10% of our business, but during the pandemic, we noticed a growth of 95%. Now home fitness has become actually a new trend. It was at the peak of the pandemic, but it continues. We can see now there is a hybrid, some people want to do both.”
The Dubai Fitness Challenge was launched in 2017. It is an annual event where the whole city is encouraged to complete 30 minutes of activity each day for 30 days.
Saeed Hareb, Secretary General, Dubai Sports Council said the city has so much to offer.
“You can see every field there available for all types of sport, if you go to the air, if you go in the land, if you go to the sea, you see many activities. If you go to the mountainside, you can see many activities.”
Mr Hareb added that sport is important for the whole community particularly during the health crisis and suggested being fit, active and healthy is important now than more than ever.