Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Ahmed al Reqabi works out at the new Fitness First gym at Dalma Mall. Delores Johnson / The National
Ahmed al Reqabi works out at the new Fitness First gym at Dalma Mall. Delores Johnson / The National

Keeping fit in the UAE is easier than ever

Abu Dhabi has seen the recent addition of two nternational chains as well as several boutique gyms to the landscape.

Just a few years ago, if you wanted to keep fit in Abu Dhabi, you had one of two options. Either join an ageing, backstreet muscle gym, where the ultra-macho ambience meant women – and a fair few men – would dare not tread. Or head to hotel health clubs where lengthy waiting lists and exorbitant costs deterred many from joining.

Flash forward and getting fit is easier than ever. For as well as small boutique gyms such as Beyond Health Club in Khalifa A, Fit Studio in Al Mamoura and Haddins in Zayed Sports City, larger international firms are moving in.

Fitness First has expanded in the city with three new premises at Dalma, Abu Dhabi and Marina malls, while the US chain Gold’s Gym has also made forays in the capital at Mazyad and Al Wahda malls.

These places are packed with the latest sports equipment, are women-friendly (often with separate, ladies-only facilities) and are also much cheaper than their hotel-based rivals, with some charging as little as Dh30 per day.

Ahmed Al Reqabi, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi, joined Fitness First at Dalma Mall last July.

“Some of these old gyms were just concerned about building muscle. They weren’t that bothered about helping you to keep fit,” says the 32-year-old government worker. “At the gym I used to go to, it was all about lifting heavy weights but there was no one there to teach you the right techniques. So people would end up getting injured. I used to join up, go for a couple of months and then stop because I was bored.”

Since signing up for Fitness First, Al Reqabi has lost 10 kilograms. “Not only is it cheaper to join, but the service you get is better, too. If you are doing something wrong, [the instructors] will come over and correct you.”

Ellen Rivera, a marketing executive who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 10 years, felt her fitness regime used to suffer because of the high membership charges.

“All the gyms were too expensive to join, so we used to go for walks or bike rides on the Corniche instead,” recalls the 36-year-old Filipino-American, who has joined Gold’s Gym in Al Wahda Mall. “But not in summer when it was too hot. The gyms are still quite expensive, but at least the costs are going down.”

Mark Botha, Fitness First’s operating and marketing manager for the Middle East, says plans are afoot to open more in coming months.

“I can’t reveal where yet because negotiations are still continuing, but Abu Dhabi is one of our focus markets and we do hope to open more clubs here in different parts of the city.”

The city, and indeed all of the UAE, is considered a relatively untapped fitness market, says Botha.

He cites recent statistics from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association that indicated that only two per cent of the population were members of a health club or gym. This compares to 11 per cent in the UK and 13 per cent in both the US and Australia.

“People in Abu Dhabi were crying out for an international brand of gyms like ours,” claims Botha. The options could soon expand for consumers, too, as Botha believes other global fitness companies are plotting their entry into the Middle East.

“I have heard rumblings that other big-name health clubs are eyeing up the UAE as somewhere to expand. It’s a growth market so they see it as an attractive proposition.”

 

hberger@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National