New gyms, fitness events and wellness centres are popping up in Dubai every other week, providing plenty of options for residents who want to lead healthier lives.
If you need extra motivation or inspiration, then Body and Mind, a 13-episode series on Indian TV channel Colors TV Middle East, is here to help. It stars Dubai-based presenter Aishwarya Ajit, who encourages viewers to get fit through a mix of exercise and nutrition advice, with guest appearances by experts and coaches.
Filmed entirely in the UAE, Body and Mind is broadcast in English, and made its debut on January 30. Ajit, 28, who also hosts a lifestyle segment on the YouTube channel Dubai ON demand, kicked off the first episode by admitting she is not a fitness fanatic.
“Sometimes I’m not disciplined with my lifestyle and I can be careless with my eating habits, plus the workload takes a toll on me,” she says.
“Fitness and well-being is something I believe in but I struggle to keep up. So the show is also my own journey, which has opened my mind and exposed me to new activities.”
Ajit says she is typical of many people in the UAE who struggle to find a work-life balance, and the show has become her own attempt to stay fit.
“It is about me rolling up my sleeves and getting down and dirty,” she says. “I’m experiencing a lot of it for the first time – it’s not just me standing pretty and reading lines into the camera.”
She says she wants viewers to step out of their comfort zone, just like she has.
“I’m just like anyone, with excuses, insecurities and problem areas, and that’s what makes the show relatable for the audience.”
Ajit, who grew up in the Emirates and has been a familiar face on TV since 2009, has watched the fitness industry grow in the past few years.
She says that when the channel approached her with the idea for the show, she was thrilled to join the health revolution that has taken over the country.
“Colours wants to promote local content because the south-Asian community in the GCC is huge,” she says. “It is an English-language show so it can be watched by anybody, and we wanted to include a lot of the locals, local personalities, experts, organisations and institutes with a health-and-fitness view.”
Each 30-minute episode, broadcast weekly, is divided into three segments – a fitness class, well-being tips and healthy eating. In the first episode, Ajit was joined by fitness trainer Ivan Djordjevic, of Anatomy Fitness, who stressed on the importance of building endurance, warm-up exercises and mobility training.
The show then shifted its focus to the Kempinski Ajman, where the chef at Sabella’s demonstrates his healthy twist on a classic risotto dish.
Ajit says the experts and chefs featured on the show try to set attainable goals.
“We don’t go around making disgusting-looking shakes,” she says. “We feature restaurants and chefs that prepare healthier versions of comfort foods. At Sabella, chef Andrea Giannini showed us how to make a risotto with organic salmon and instead of using rice, he used quinoa – a ‘quinoato’.”
In the final segment of the first episode, the presenter talked to Dubai nutritionist Mitun De Sarkar to discuss detox diets and balanced nutrition.
In the coming weeks, Ajit will try yoga at Talise Spa at Madinat Jumeirah, mixed martial arts (MMA) sessions and pole fitness. Viewers will also get to see Talise Wellness executive chef Gabriele Kurz whip up a hearty breakfast with fresh ingredients, and Ajit will try the guilt-free grilled salmon at Market Kitchen in Abu Dhabi.
Ajit says she was nervous while filming the MMA session, which she was attempting for the first time.
“It was something I would never had considered before this show,” she says. “I was taught self-defence and it was intimidating, because the instructor was 10 times my size and I had to tackle him. But it was fun.”
Sachin Gokhale, vice president and business head for Viacom18/ IndiaCast for the Middle East and Africa region, came up with the idea for the show after receiving feedback from residents who complained about a sedentary lifestyle.
“Through our interaction with the community we found that people who moved to the UAE have found a change in their pace of life and an increase in demand for time,” he says.
“Therefore, people resort to things like binge eating or ordering takeaways. There aren’t often many things for families to do together other than go out to dine. Coupled with that, people say they don’t have time to exercise or feel like they don’t have options available.”
He said the show was designed to be relatable, without intimidating viewers with unachievable objectives.
“Aishwarya has a knack for putting people at ease and she can make things simple for the audience,” he says. “She will also be joined by local experts throughout the show, who will talk about home remedies and small lifestyle changes that won’t involve substantial effort or substantial amount of money.”
Viewers can get involved through the channel's Facebook page and Twitter account, which already has about 170,000 followers.
“A lot of our content will also be available on social media and we will hold contests for our audience,” says Gokhale.
“In the final few episodes, we also plan on taking questions from viewers and will answer them on the show.”
• Body and Mind is broadcast on Saturdays at 6pm on Colors TV