Many of us start every new year vowing to do more exercise and live a healthier lifestyle and thanks to Active Parks, Abu Dhabi residents are off to a good head start.
Over the next four weeks, the new initiative is hosting an incredible 380 fitness classes across 12 of the emirate’s most picturesque and popular parks. And the best bit is that each session is absolutely free.
This means that you can work up a sweat with yoga, Crossfit, Run Fit and other instructor-led wellness classes every single night from Thursday December 30 to Wednesday, January 26, and do it all without spending a single dirham.
Below, we examine why the Abu Dhabi government is investing so heavily in encouraging exercise amongst the community, and why this initiative is totally unique to any other that’s come before.
How to participate in Active Parks
The format is wonderfully simple. Just check out the schedule, find your nearest participating park and turn up to register for the class you want to try 15 minutes before.
It’s on at a sensible time too. Most locations are hosting four classes per night, with the first class at 4pm and the last at 7pm.
Open to anyone aged 15 and over, the program is suitable for people of all fitness levels, and there are also special sessions for people of determination.
Talal Mustafa Al Hashemi, executive director of Abu Dhabi Sports Council’s Sports Developments Sector, said: “We do not want people to feel out of place, or overly conscious, which is why we are rolling out a dedicated schedule of activities to cater to a range of abilities across parks in their own communities.”
Taking place across Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafrah, the classes include Dance Fit, Run Fit, bootcamps, CrossFit and yoga, with each session taught by qualified instructors.
The participating green spaces include Khalifa City Park 3, the newly revamped Sheikha Fatima Park, Dolphin Park, MBZ Park, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Park, Electra Park and Al Shamkha Park 4 in Abu Dhabi, Madinat Zayed, Al Ruwais Park 2 and Al Marfa National Park in Al Dhafra and Al Jahili and Al Towayya Parks in Al Ain are all taking part.
Apart from boosting your physical wellbeing, studies show that working out outdoors can help combat depression, relieve stress, lower blood pressure and ensure that your body is absorbing enough vitamin D.
Promoting health and fitness
For those of us hoping to use 2022 to get healthier, fitter or stronger, or anyone who normally shells out hundreds of dirhams per month on fancy gym studio memberships, Active Parks might seem too good to be true.
With so many classes taking place simultaneously across multiple different locations, it has the potential to reach countless different communities.
Created by The Department of Community Development (DCD) in partnership with Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), Active Parks aims to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and prove that exercise can be done anywhere.
Inactivity is certainly a topical subject in the UAE. STEPPI, the Dubai-founded health and wellness app, recently reported that up to 50 percent of UAE residents are failing to meet the recommended amount of daily exercise. The pandemic also exacerbated this issue, with STEPPI users moving up to 40 percent less during lockdown.
Mohamed Helal AlBalooshi, executive director of the Strategic Affairs Office at the Department of Community Development, said: “Active Parks aims to cultivate healthier and happier lifestyles and stronger social communities. We want to do this by encouraging the pursuit of regular fitness regimes in the abundant green spaces found amongst Abu Dhabi’s world-class integrated infrastructure.”
Active Parks echoes the ethos and format of the hugely popular, also month-long Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC), which last year attracted 124 percent more participants than in 2020. Running from October 29 to November 27, DFC 2021 asked participants to complete either 30 active minutes, 30 exercise minutes or 10,000 steps every day for 30 days. It also included the landmark Dubai Run 2021, a free event which saw an incredible 146,000 people run, jog or walk 5km or 10km through Downtown Dubai.
Other free outdoor wellness classes to try
That said, Abu Dhabi also offers other opportunities to look after your body and mind out in the fresh air for free.
Throughout the winter months, Umm Al Emarat park hosts complimentary yoga and meditation classes run by Seven Wellness, Flo Studio and Inner Space Studio every Wednesday evening, while The Galleria Mall is currently inviting shoppers to combine their retail therapy with physical therapy, and take part in free yoga classes on the rooftop Sky Park. Running on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings from 8.30am to 9.30am, participants just need to register in advance.
And nothing beats TrainYas as a spectacular outdoor workout setting. Another free fitness activity presented by ADSC, it invites residents and visitors to run, walk or cycle around Yas Marina Circuit on Tuesday and Sunday evenings. Bikes, helmets and entry are all provided for free.
Active Parks participants must show a green Al Hosn pass before every class. To find out more visit the website.
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.