As Dubai works to license all trainers and facilities, local entrepreneurs have launched two sites that aim to help people make sense of their myriad choices.
Websites help make sense of Dubai's fitness services
In a crowded fitness market offering everything from aerobics to Zumba via surfing, walking and martial arts, it can be confusing to know which exercise is best for you.
Not only that, with so many trainers and sports facilities, judging who has the right qualifications and what they cost to use can make it harder to make the right choice.
With that in mind, two Dubai entrepreneurs have each launched websites that aim to make a fit, healthy lifestyle more accessible and the quality of local gyms, fitness centres and services, such as nutritionists and physiotherapists, more transparent.
It is appropriate timing. The Dubai Sports Council has just announced that as of 2013, all fitness trainers and facilities will have to be licensed.
Grant Goes, a New Zealand-born fitness professional and the founder of www.fitnesslink.ae, welcomes the new legislation, which also states that sports coaches must get their qualifications attested by an independent company to be a member of the register of exercise professionals, and then register with officially licensed gyms.
The trainers' profiles will go on a database that will be accessible to the public online and will be enforced with warnings, fines, then possible deportation.
"There's always been a lot of confusion when it comes to services, products or people," says Goes. "This regulation will make sure people know that the fitness professionals they go to have the right qualifications for this region. It's fantastic news and aims to lift the standards here. There has been no such regulation here before."
These inconsistencies in the quality of standards prompted Goes to set up his website, which comprises a database of services including gym memberships, personal trainers, physiotherapists, sports supplements stockists and even healthy cafes. Each professional listed on the website, which is free to use, must list their credentials and qualifications.
The aim is to help consumers make more informed choices. "So many people ask me: 'Why should I do this exercise as opposed to that exercise?'" Goes says. "There is so much out there and everybody is different so they have to decide what's right for them in a way that would help them actually sustain a fit and healthy lifestyle. We want people to understand they don't have to go to a gym but they can go kayaking if that's what they enjoy, or go walking.
"So many people take up sports that their friends do or they hear are good for them, not necessarily knowing the facts," he adds. "This way people will have everything in front of them and can decide for themselves in an unbiased way."
On the website, staff from local venuesgive detailed explanations on the fundamentals of their activity and its benefits, but they are not allowed to use it as a platform to promote their business. Major companies will also not be allowed to monopolise the site, allowing space for smaller businesses.
Noviplus, another healthy living website based in Dubai, offers its members exclusive discounts for things such as organic cafes, restaurants, fitness facilities and services such as nutritionists and physiotherapy. Founded by Enisa Glovovic and Marko Mladenovic, a fitness trainer at New York University Abu Dhabi, the site has already attracted more than 200 members since launching in July. Membership costs Dh289 per year.
"With Noviplus, we primarily wanted to help people access good quality products and services but while saving money," says Glovovic. "Living in Dubai isn't cheap and this a way of helping people lead a healthy lifestyle in a long-term way.
"We also want to make things more accessible, especially to the lower income groups who would, for example, take advantage of free fitness activities in the city but may not be able to afford other services," she adds.
Noviplus aims to promote small, ethical businesses. There are currently 40 local companies signed up to the site, including Balance Cafe, Reebok Crossfit sports classes and Down to Earth organic supermarket.
The MAKE cafe and business hub in Jumeirah Beach Residence was one of the first businesses to sign up. Through Noviplus, members can get 15 per cent off its menu.
Leith Matthews, the managing director of MAKE, says his company came on board for three reasons. "Noviplus are a local start-up, young, ambitious and doing something interesting in the city and their healthy mission has synergies with our food menu philosophy," he says. "In addition, the networking potential is invaluable. We get a platform that allows us to connect with a new group of users and invites them to visit our venue."