With countless picturesque green spaces, exercise tracks and outdoor gym equipment spread throughout every community, the UAE capital has long been a fabulous place for joggers, cyclists and fitness fanatics. And the emirate is ramping up its commitment to encouraging residents to take up active and healthy lifestyles and spend more time exercising out in the fresh air.
Last year saw the opening of Al Gurm Corniche, including a 3.5km cycling and running track and designated fitness stations, plus the sprawling Al Fay Park, filled with 2,000 local trees and including basketball courts, rock-climbing walls, monkey bars and numerous other purpose-built spaces for outdoor activities.
Meanwhile, plans for the Abu Dhabi Loop, encompassing a 109km cycling route and 3,500-seater velodrome, were also revealed in November. Abu Dhabi is now the first official Union Cycliste Internationale ‘Bike City’ in the whole of Asia, with plans to expand its cycling network to more than 1,000km.
A continuous commitment to exercise
This year is off to a promising start too.
An innovative project created by the Department of Community Development (DCD) in partnership with Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), the Active Parks campaign is hosting 380 free fitness classes in 12 parks throughout Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafrah until the end of January 2022.
Talal Mustafa Al Hashemi, executive director of ADSC’s Sports Developments Sector, tells Livehealthy that four-week program has proved extremely popular since it launched on December 30.
“Despite the wet weather during the first week, hundreds of community members of all ages and nationalities have already participated in Active Parks,” he says. “We’ve purposefully tailored our sessions to be suitable for different fitness levels and abilities, and they’re all proving very popular.
“With Dance Fit, Boot camps, Yoga, CrossFit and Run Fit to choose from, some classes are more in demand in some parks than they are in others, but that just reflects the local community groups and their preferences.”
With this latest event running for almost a whole month, he explains that the Abu Dhabi government is dedicated to encouraging exercise in every way: “In line with Abu Dhabi’s vision to build and nurture an active community committed to practicing sports, Active Parks is focused on physical well-being.
“It also encourages the community to make the most of the Emirate’s abundant green spaces and world-class integrated infrastructure. We want people to realize that they have local outdoor facilities at their disposal where they can come together, socialize and stay fit.”
Inspired by good health
Indeed, as the world emerges from the pandemic, it’s more crucial than ever that we are kind to both our bodies and minds.
“The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of physical activity for adults and 60 minutes per day for children in order to improve physical and mental wellbeing,” says Al Hashemi.
“ADSC and DCD will continue to work with all relevant partners and stakeholders to develop and deliver meaningful initiatives to the Abu Dhabi community.”
A unique initiative
Of course, all gyms and studios are designed to promote healthy living, and anyone can choose to exercise independently outdoors.
“Our unique selling point is the fact that the classes take place outdoors with highly skilled instructors, meaning the community can have fun and stay active whilst receiving high-quality coaching,” says Al Hashemi. “Exercising outdoors provides fresh air and a change of scenery, which can also help lower stress levels. I want to encourage everyone to come along and join in with Active Parks. After all, there is never a bad time to pursue a more active lifestyle and just after the turn of the New Year is a great chance to start new, healthy habits for the months ahead,” he concludes.
Active Parks coach Honza Bubik runs some of the Active Parks yoga classes which take place in Dolphin Park, MBZ Park, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Park and other recreational areas throughout the emirate.
“In my yoga classes we slow things down and go through a 45-minute series of guided full-body mobility and stretching moves,” he says. “Yoga helps improve strength, balance and flexibility, and I hope as many people as possible will try it.”
Meanwhile, instructor Sky teaches the more fast-paced Dance Fit classes, hosted at Electra Park, the newly revamped Sheikha Fatima Park, Khalifa City Park 3 and beyond.
“From Dance Fit you can expect a lot of fun, a lot of sweat and a lot of good quality movements that involve the whole body,” she says. “You’ll be surrounded by new friends and I’ll be waiting on the dance floor for anyone who wants to give it a go”
• Active Parks is offering free daily classes in numerous different locations until Wednesday, January 26.
Harriet Shephard is an Abu Dhabi-based copywriter and freelance journalist with a particular focus on fitness, travel and lifestyle, which, along with good food, also happen to be her main passions when she's not typing away at her laptop.