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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

UAE gyms anticipate 40 per cent surge in membership in January and February

Gyms see spike in sign-ups thanks to New Year resolutions and extra holiday pounds, with some offering to absorb the cost of VAT to attract new custom

Andy Harper, co-founder and head coach of Iconic Fitness, says the new year membership rush will peak towards the end of January. Reem Mohammed  /  The National
Andy Harper, co-founder and head coach of Iconic Fitness, says the new year membership rush will peak towards the end of January. Reem Mohammed / The National

UAE gyms are anticipating a surge in memberships of as much as 40 per cent in January and February as the season for fitness resolutions gets under way and residents commit to pledges to lose the pounds gained over the holidays.

If you haven't yet signed up for a new fitness programme, however, you're not alone – Loreana Acosta, manager of the women-only Curvalicious gym in Dubai, said they are expecting membership to hit its largest increase of 35-40 per cent by the middle of the month. She said: “Families are still travelling, but when schools start again, that will be the peak.

Andy Harper, co-founder and head coach of Dubai's Iconic Fitness, said: “We see an uptake in the number of people making resolutions for the new year closer to the end of the month (January) rather than the beginning. It takes people a little time to kick start those resolutions."

“The two peak seasons are January and February, and also September after Ramadan, when people come back from holiday and the kids are back at school.”

In the battle to win over fitness fans, some gyms have pledged to absorb the cost of 5 per cent VAT. As a "New Year's gift", YogaOne in Abu Dhabi sent out a promotional email in December promising that “for the month of January we will be absorbing Value Added Tax (VAT), so if you have ever considered committing … January will be the perfect time to buy.”

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Co-owner Margie Cordon said people were phoning in to find out if the offer was correct. She said: “People are coming in to buy membership and calling to ask about it. There is a lot of excitement when we say we are absorbing VAT for all packages before the end of January.

Many gyms, however, reported that VAT had so far had little impact on the new year's rush. Angelica Yassine, manager of Dubai's Warehouse Gym, said: “We tried to encourage members and new people to opt for the annual membership earlier, but it didn’t really have much of an effect. Five per cent wasn’t a huge blow. The effect actually has been more on the soft drinks and the energy drinks – those have been impacted more.”

Energy drinks cost upwards of Dh20 following the introduction of a 50 per cent tax on fizzy drinks last year, as well as VAT this year.

Apart from weight loss, gym goers chart out goals such as wanting to do handstands or pull ups. But coaches said residents must stick with their new exercise programmes to make good on their New Year commitments and a change in lifestyle is also necessary to achieve real results.

“No matter how much weight you lose, you always want to lose a bit more so you’re never totally satisfied. But performance-based objectives are exciting to achieve and something you can be very proud of,” Mr Harper from Iconic Fitness said.

“If you train in a gym for 45 minutes to an hour that still leaves 23 hours when you are either making progress or falling back into bad habits. When you put time and effort into training, you have also got to commit to a healthy eating and sleep schedule.”

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The importance of sleeping well

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle outside of the gym is key to achieving fitness targets – poor sleep patterns do not just leave you groggy, but also put your health at risk.

Along with guidelines on the need to exercise, a better diet and to stop smoking, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend getting a good night’s sleep to prevent cardiovascular disease.

“Sleep is one of the most neglected [parts of daily life]. Life in Dubai is fast-paced, people work long hours, and have family and other obligations. They neglect the importance of sleep to overall health and weight loss,” said Andy Harper, co-founder of Iconic Fitness.

“If you don’t sleep enough you are not going to be able to lose that weight. Your body releases hormones and you end up storing fat. So you may eat healthy and exercise a lot, but if you don’t sleep right, you still won’t make progress.”

Lack of sleep can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, WHO studies have found. Poor sleep could double the risk of a heart attack and increase the risk of a stroke by up to four times.

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