A popular shopping hub in Dubai became overrun by fluorescent lycra and booming music on Friday as the first day of an emirate-wide fitness challenge kicked off.
More than a thousand people descended on Dubai Festival City, trading shopping bags for weights, to take part in the Dubai Fitness Challenge.
Launched last year by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, the challenge calls on residents, businesses, and governments to exercise for 30 minutes a day for 30 days.
And on the first day of a weekend-long fitness carnival, Dubai showed up for the challenge.
Calls of encouragement from fitness instructors boomed over blaring music as dozens of people mirrored an aerobics class on the field, at the heart of the main square, led by a muscular trainer on stage.
Surrounding the field were a variety of stalls organised by gyms, businesses and government agencies challenging passers-by to take part in an activity.
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Walking past the Federal Electricity and Water Authority’s stand proved particularly treacherous, as employees roped bystanders into a competitive tug-of-war.
The early afternoon sun did not stop Melanie Espino, 46, who was warming up by dancing to the music.
“I took part in the challenge last year, it was only me and my husband. Now I am back after I convinced a group of friends to join us. It’s a chance to let off steam in the healthiest way possible wile surrounded with happy people wherever you look,” said the Filipina.
There was something for every level of fitness, from monkey bars to climbing walls, group fitness classes and rows of stationary bikes.
Groups of men took part in push up exercises, competing against each other and showing off in front of friends.
Parents trailed behind excited children racing to a dedicated zone for youngsters where bootcamps and yoga sessions were held.
Many seized the opportunity to get out and exercise but more importantly to bond with their children.
“This is a one of its kind activity that gives me, as a father, the chance to bond and find middle ground with my 7-year-old daughter,” said David Butler, an American living in Dubai.
“We worked out, laughed, played and danced - it’s all happening in one place for me as a dad.”
Activities and fitness classes will be held across Dubai until November 24 to encourage people to take part. Those taking on the challenge can download the mobile phone application to track their progress, find classes and connect with other people.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed launched the challenge to encourage people to lead healthier lifestyles.
“My vision for the Dubai Fitness Challenge was to create a truly inclusive movement across our city and the wider UAE, to sustainably enhance the health and long-term well-being of people of all ages, abilities and levels of fitness," Sheikh Hamdan said this month when announcing the dates for this year’s challenge.
“Last year was a tremendous start for the festival but we aren’t satisfied with our successes. This year, the event will offer more ease and convenience of access to all communities so that everyone — regardless of age, ability and fitness capacity — can participate daily.”