Dubai Fitness Challenge – The unprecedented global-first initiative brought together public and private sector players to drive city-wide movement that encouraged residents and visitors of all ages and fitness levels to commit to 30 minutes of daily physical activity for 30 days by providing free sports, workout classes, pop-up gyms, weekend fitness carnivals and expert advice.
Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC) launched by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai, upped the sporting ante over the last month, with 786,000 citizens and residents of all ages and fitness levels officially registering to participate.
Dubai readily accepted the ‘Challenge’ posed by His Highness to get moving and embrace a positive change towards an active life. The initiative geared towards making Dubai the most active city in the world, in turn boosting collective social wellbeing and happiness, encouraged participants to commit to a minimum of 30 minutes of daily activity for 30 days. The commitment was aided by a host of free sports events, 1,500 free exercise classes at 85 locations, pop-up gym sessions at over 75 venues across the city, weekend fitness carnivals and other community-driven activities, complete with support from professional trainers and fitness tips from international experts.
With official statistics clocking in at nearly 800,000 participants at the close of the 30-day challenge that ran from 20 October to 18 November, figures represent all residents of Dubai across governments, corporate entities, schools and individuals that registered to be part of the challenge through the event website or dedicated DFC app. This overwhelming response and engagement with the movement is a clear testament to the spontaneous backing it received from the moment it was launched, from all segments of Dubai’s society, staunchly supported by government, public and private sector stakeholders, educational institutions and organisation alike.
The Challenge saw people of all fitness levels, young, old and those of determination, enthusiastically driven to push not only themselves but also their families, peers and friends to make a fundamental change to their lives and embrace a more active lifestyle. Hundreds of partners, sponsors and fitness organisations joined the DFC movement, putting on a packed calendar of fitness activities across the city on a scale never before seen in Dubai. Each of the five signature weekend fitness carnivals running over 2-3 days at Safa Park, Kite Beach, Skydive Dubai, Burj Park and Dubai Festival City drew in tens of thousands, reflecting the truly inclusive nature of participants from all over the city. In addition to the weekend carnivals, free classes, activities and sessions and the pop up gyms ensured access within communities, allowing Dubai residents the freedom and flexibility to be able to take part and get in their 30 minutes of fitness movement for the day.
HE Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of Dubai’s Department of Tourism Commerce Marketing said: “The past 30 days were inspirational for the entire city and I want to thank His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for his vision in championing the Dubai Fitness Challenge. In challenging us all to participate and become more active, he not only motivated but also mobilised the entire city of Dubai to create a positive habit for life. The ultimate tribute to the overwhelming response and uptake was reflected in the closing statistics as the city successfully inspired 786,000 officially registered participants to kick off their commitment to more active life by attaining their #Dubai30X30 goals. Seeing Dubai embracing the challenge through their daily efforts, sharing their stories actively, motivating others to join, participating at the weekend carnivals – all these are a strong indicator of what we hope is just the first step that will carry on through people’s lives well into the future. I take this opportunity to thank the people of Dubai, and the incredible efforts of the partners and sponsors throughout the duration of the Challenge – their support, dedication and commitment has been fundamental to the success of this event.”
DFC garnered support from stakeholders across multiple sectors – from government bodies such as Dubai Sports Council and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), and public service entities like Dubai Police, to educational institutions, healthcare and utility providers, and private-sector businesses, large and small. All parties pledged their commitment and played an active role by helping organise, host or finance the numerous events taking place throughout the initiative, and actively promoting the various goings-on to their customers as part of the outreach programmes. Additionally, all entities and their staff took on the Challenge by engaging in friendly contests in a drive to push each other to maximise their contributions to the overall movement tracked across Dubai.
With an innovative approach towards encouraging employees to lead a more active lifestyle, DEWA was DFC’s principal Event Partner. HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD and CEO of DEWA, said: “I thank His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for his continuous support to sports in Dubai, and for launching the Dubai Fitness Challenge, which has created a positive competition and changed the lifestyle of many people in our society making them healthier and fitter. This was done by encouraging them to engage in physical activities for 30 days in an exciting atmosphere full of activities. We are pleased that DEWA was the main and exclusive event partner in our role as a socially-responsible government organisation, and as part of our efforts to achieve the directives of the wise leadership to make sport a part of the culture of the UAE society. In this regard, I commend our staff who effectively participated in all activities and were role models for active participation in national and sports initiatives.
“We hope that this challenge will motivate all members of society to make physical activities an integral part of their daily lives. DEWA provides a positive and motivating work environment that contributes to achieving a healthy balance between employees’ professional and social lives. We encourage our staff and society as a whole to make physical activities an essential part of their daily lives. Exercise promotes a healthy and vibrant lifestyle and boosts positive energy.”
Dubai Sports Council was an official Government Endorsee of DFC and helped organise the packed calendar of events and activities across the city. HE Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, said: “Dubai Fitness Challenge, launched by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is definitely one of the highlights of the year. It has certainly achieved its lofty goals, successfully putting physical activity into the collective consciousness of people. We have seen hundreds and thousands of men and women, young and old, of different nationalities and backgrounds, enthusiastically embrace this initiative, which in the long term aims to turn Dubai into the most physically active place in the world.
“So while the Challenge for 2017 has concluded, the message will live on. The challenge will continue and I am confident we will continue on this path of health and happiness. I have been to the schools, to the parks and the beaches over this past month and I have seen how enthusiastic every participant has been, and each one of them is determined to continue beyond these 30 days. Exercising is addictive and once you start, once you get a taste of its health benefits, people don’t turn back. Dubai Fitness Challenge has provided that start, the spark that I believe will lead us collectively towards our goal of making Dubai a land of health, happiness and verve.”
Featuring a huge range of sports from beach cricket, cycling and football, to paddle boarding, team sports, walking, yoga and everything in between, the carnivals were completely free. Each event showcased a variety of stage performances, entertaining high-octane routines, celebrity fitness professionals that shared tips and interacted with the crowds, and even had picnic zones with healthy food options to make it a weekend out with family and friends for all.
The 30-day period had a jam-packed schedule allowing everyone to get involved and pick up an activity that was outside of their day to day routines. A number of existing and highly successful partner events being hosted in Dubai were also brought into the DFC fold, including Dubai Color Run, Dubai Mass Swim, Pink Ladies Run, Dubai Schools Fitness Games and Yogafest, among others. Other special events included the X-Spartan Workout, and the X-Dubai Sunrise Yoga session in the middle of the Skydive Dubai runway.
DFC mobile fitness units brought fitness to every resident, popping up in 75 different spots across the city including malls such as The Dubai Mall, Mercato and Ibn Battuta, lifestyle destinations like City Walk and The Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residence, as well as residential neighbourhoods including Jumeirah Lake Towers, Jumeirah Village Triangle and Al Barsha.
Through the hard work and support of Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), thousands of Dubai school children also got involved in the Challenge, with daily exercise time scheduled in between classes. This has resulted in happier, more energetic students who can focus better on their schoolwork, as witnessed by school administrators. Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), said: “Dubai Fitness Challenge has really brought together the entire education community to celebrate fitness as we have seen our students, parents and teachers come together to experience something different and positive. Schools and universities hosted daily events, walkathons, sports festivals, exercise sessions and hundreds of other activities throughout the 30 days and these activities involved people of all fitness levels.”
“By going to a different school and university every morning, I have experienced the excitement and happiness of student’s first-hand and player some new sports for the first-time. By encouraging people to have a positive attitude towards fitness, we have inspired and encouraged our children to adopt fitness as a lifestyle habit. Teachers have seen how short breaks can re-energise students and make them feel more alert and focused. We hope every student in Dubai will stay active for 30 minutes every day even after the challenge ends and continue to inspire others around them.”
There were several opportunities for children to get active in a variety of ways including the X-Dubai X3 Junior Triathlon which saw little ones as young as four run, cycle and swim at Kite Beach. Another exciting event that was enthusiastically embraced by families was Dubai’s first ever Superhero Walkathon which saw Dubai Marina transformed into a scene straight out of comic book wonderland.
Kids activities were also integral to the weekend carnivals with a dedicated Children’s Fun and Fitness Zone in every location featuring activities like bubble soccer, a climbing wall, trampolines, an inflatable assault course, Horse Hoppers in addition to football skills, drills, training and games on small pitches. Budding footballers learnt how to tackle a ball, as well as try their luck at penalty shootout competitions, a dribbling slalom, freekicks and even the best goal celebrations. Inspiring kids to get more active was the Les Mills Born to Move classes, designed to set young people up with a lifelong love of physical activity.
DFC was backed and endorsed by a host of high-profile athletes, sports personalities and local community influencers whose presence during the Challenge helped to inspire and motivate participants as they worked towards their 30×30 goals. Ex-Manchester United and England football star Rio Ferdinand kicked things off during the opening weekend carnival at Safa Park, while reigning and undefeated World Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua joined the celebrations on DFC’s final day at Dubai Festival City. Other celebrities included UK TV show ‘The Biggest Loser’ star Rob ‘The Killer’ Edmunds, pioneering BASE jumper Cedric Dumont, Emirati CrossFit and Red Bull athlete Shaikha Al Qassimi, and award-winning fitness instructor, entrepreneur and online personality Cassey Ho. In addition, popular UAE radio host Kris Fade made regular appearances, hosting special classes, competitions and give-aways.
Fitness Professionals also got behind the initiative in full force, with hundreds of professionals hosting classes and offering a wealth of advice to keep participants motivated through the month-long initiative. Marcus Smith, extreme athlete, motivational speaker and Founder of InnerFight said: “Dubai Fitness Challenge has been an awesome initiative proving to people that they do have time and that physical exercise can be fun and enjoyable. 30 minutes is a fraction of our day and will certainly help us all to have a healthier and more enjoyable life. I just hope people keep up with their 30 minutes of daily exercise.”
With Dubai Fitness Challenge 2017 now concluded, the astonishing levels of participation reflected a clear shift in attitude towards fitness and activity. Whilst almost 800,000 people registered to take part, attendance at the weekend festivals and events also included a wider community of participants, a clear demonstration of a broader mobilisation of family, friends and colleagues to become an integral part of the overall challenge. DFC noticeably engaged the entire city over the past month as residents made their move towards a more active lifestyle and took the first steps in what will become a new and more energetic way of life.
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