Temperatures are fast rising, so it’s time to plan how we can stay physically active in the months to come
UAE summer fitness: tips for exercising safely in the heat
The mercury is heading upwards, water heaters are being turned off and air conditioning is being pressed into service – it’s that time of year when we all draw a deep breath and try to mentally prepare ourselves for the onslaught of summer. Like the Brits always moaning about the cold and the rain, we too find morbid satisfaction in complaining about the debilitating heat and humidity, blaming it for practically anything going wrong and using it as the perfect excuse to stay indoors, lock the door and put our feet up.
Not so fast, couch potatoes. Just because it’s hot out there, it’s no reason to put fitness routines on hold. If your idea of hell on earth is a gym, but you still enjoy being active, there remains plenty of scope when it comes to keeping fit in the summer months – you just need to make a few adjustments to your routine.
Timing is crucial
Before the Sun rises, the ambient temperatures can be bearable for outdoor activities even in the height of summer. Not that we’re advocating exercise in the pitch dark – any time before 8am could be an ideal window to get out for a jog, brisk walk or a swim. Sue Gibson, a freelance swimming instructor in Dubai, encourages people of all ages to make swimming a regular part of their routines. “My students range in age from toddlers to the elderly,” she says. “In the summer, swimming is a brilliant way to stay active without doing harm to your joints. If your building has a pool, it’s likely to be empty in the early mornings or after dark, and a dip in the sea is wonderful before the beaches get crowded. In and out before 8am is how I do it.”
Whatever time you decide to go outdoors, however, you should always remember to take drinking water with you and to stay hydrated before, during and after physical activity, even if it’s just a stroll.
You don’t need to be a gym bunny to get active indoors. A number of sports facilities have been established in the UAE by entrepreneurs with a drive to keep the nation fit all year round. In Dubai, you can play football on air-conditioned pitches at places such as Ahdaaf Sports Club in Al Quoz, with other activities (including children’s birthday parties and corporate events) catered for as well.
Indoor trampoline parks are plentiful, with Flip Out, Jump Boxx and others in Dubai, Jump World in Sharjah, and Bounce in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai. If you’ve spent even 10 minutes jumping around on the tarp in any of these places, you’ll know exactly what an excellent workout it is, as well as being fun for all ages.
And for the ultimate escape from the summer heat, Ski Dubai has plenty of physical exertion on offer in subzero temperatures.
There’s an app for that
“I get all the exercise I need without leaving my spare bedroom,” says 28-year-old expat Lloyd Chapman. “I have an app on my phone called the Seven Minute Workout,” he explains, “and the only equipment in use is a chair and a wall.” In fact, there are a number of these apps, most constructed around the same premise of doing 12 high-intensity exercises, such as jumping jacks, push-ups, abdominal crunches, planks and lunges, while the chair is used for step-ups and tricep dips. Activate the app and do what the voice instructs you – it’s a full-on experience that harnesses the benefits of high-intensity training without the need for gym equipment, and it’s all over, like it says on the tin, in just seven minutes. “I’ve lost so much weight just by doing this,” Chapman says, “and the beauty is that you can do the routines practically anywhere, even when you’re on holiday.” There are thousands of smartphone apps relating to fitness, from yoga and mindful meditation, to weightlifting, Pilates, walking, running, cycling and anything else you care to mention. You just need to use them.
Expend energy, not cash
Nobody could complain about the UAE not having enough gigantic shopping malls, but few of us realise that their doors are normally open long before the shops are – you can enjoy an early morning breakfast before the hoards arrive with their credit cards, while storekeepers get everything ready for the day ahead.
Or, you could just take advantage of all that air-conditioned space and enjoy a brisk walk around whichever one happens to be nearest to home. Some locations, such as Abu Dhabi Mall, have their own mall-walking clubs that require you to join before pounding the marble floors (watch you don’t slip, by the way), while others such as Mall of the Emirates in Dubai simply encourage residents and visitors to make use of the space as part of an active lifestyle.
Lost in music
Earlier this year, researchers at Texas Tech University released the findings of a study on how music can make a difference to our workouts, which was presented to the American College of Cardiology in Florida. Results gleaned from 127 patients, who were scheduled for routine electrocardiogram treadmill tests, showed that on average they exercised for a minute longer if they were listening to music. “I find it takes the mind off physical discomfort,” says Amit Dhar, who regularly goes running around Dubai Marina, no matter the weather. “I have loads of different playlists on my phone so, depending on what mood I’m in or how energetic I want to get, I’ve always got a good selection available. It’s great for me to be able to push through my own discomfort levels – I don’t know why, it just helps to have some pounding beats to listen to, like it’s a motivation to just do that bit more even when I’m soaked through from the heat.”