x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Improving options for female fitness

It's good news, but no surprise, that fully 1,000 Emirati women took part in the country's first fitness challenge competition intended for them.

Fitness comes more easily to some than to others. No two people have quite the same genetic inheritance, general health, eating habits or lifestyle preferences.

Social and cultural factors can also favour some people in the effort to stay trim and toned. In the UAE, for example, many young men of various backgrounds have a range of gym choices and exercise options; others earn their living by physical labour. One way or another, keeping in shape is widely seen as just a normal part of everyday life for most male teenagers and young adults.

For Emirati women, however, opportunities can be scarce. So it is no surprise that a first-ever fitness competition for Emirati females, concluded this month in Dubai, attracted more than 1,000 participants.

As The National reported yesterday, 90 women took part in the final stages of the contest, a rigorous set of exercises that had to be performed in just 15 minutes. One finalist was in her 60s.

Of course fitness training in not normally a competitive sport spread over five weeks, like this contest. Most people who train are more likely to do so recurrently, with a friend or two, so that cordial competition is combined with mutual encouragement. But the contest, and its Dh100,000 first prize, will help focus attention on the question of fitness opportunities and exercise consciousness for female citizens of all ages.

Until recent generations, Emirati women in general were kept fit, willingly or otherwise, by the rigours of the traditional lifestyle: hauling water, washing clothes, keeping house. Nobody would yearn for those days to return, but the challenge for some Emirati women now is to find a way to replace in the gym, voluntarily, the calorie-burning, fitness-enhancing opportunities their grandmothers had to confront every day.

It is worth noting, too, that the whole family benefits when there is a focus on female fitness. Children naturally emulate their parents, and a mother who sets an example of attention to exercise may be starting her children out on an enduring lifestyle that echoes her choices. And a mother fully conscious of the benefits of exercise will also be less willing to see her children eating junk food very often, or at all.

As demand for women-only gyms and other opportunities for exercise increase, supply should grow apace. Indeed, this is a promising field of endeavour for female Emirati entrepreneurs.