Abu Dhabi launches free fitness initiative: 'Exercise has never been more important'

Called Active Parks, the initiative offers free fitness classes at 12 parks over a span of four weeks to promote physical and mental well-being

In Abu Dhabi's Al Khaleej Al Arabi park, numerous people move to upbeat notes on the grass. From afar, it might seem like a small and socially distanced flash mob, but it’s actually DanceFit, just one of the MANY free fitness classes that form Active Parks, a wellness initiative launched on December 30 by the Department of Community Development in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

Running for four weeks, the initiative includes 380 free training sessions organised across 12 public parks in the capital.

The training sessions are run by coaches and certified instructors and span a wide spectrum: DanceFit, RunFit, CrossFit, bootcamps and yoga.

“DanceFit is just exercise mixed with dance. It seems easy, but gets quite challenging and is quite fun. But our most popular classes so far are CrossFit, boot camp and RunFit,” says David Walsh, a team leader with Active Parks.

While RunFit covers running and jogging, with some full-throttle sprinting in between (to elevate and lower the heart rate for best results), CrossFit features exercises such as squats and deadlifts. Boot camp is more “military style. You’ll be crawling, carrying things,” explains Walsh.

Abu Dhabi residents participate in a free DanceFit class as part of the Active Parks initiative. Photo: Victor Besa / The National

With inclusivity at the heart of the initiative, there are also specially designed classes for people of determination.

“I think the main reason this was started was because, especially with the times we went through last year with Covid-19, exercise has never been more important as it is now. Offering free outdoor classes for people, I think, is a superb initiative,” says Walsh.

The participants seem to agree. Mutaz Adel Labadsalim and Mahwish Kaur, who had made plans to go for a jog at Al Khaleej Al Arabi park, for example, stumbled across the initiative by accident and loved it.

“We were not expecting it, but it was so much fun,” says Labadsalim.

“We’re definitely coming again,” Kaur adds.

The four-week programme is open to everyone over the age of 15, with both daytime and evening classes available.

“The goal of this initiative is to raise awareness of the importance of an active lifestyle, practising sports on a daily basis and making it a part of your life,” says Mohamed Helal Al Balooshi, executive director of the DCD strategic affairs department.

Mohamed Helal Al Balooshi of the Department of Community Development says the initiative is designed to increase access to sports and exercise. Photo: Victor Besa / The National

The locations have been chosen with care. “We have tried to select parks that are close to residential areas. These are places where people regularly go to, but don’t exercise. The goal is to push them to do sports, and have something that is very accessible,” says Al Balooshi.

Active Parks classes are currently ongoing at Madinat Zayed and Al Marfa National Park in Al Dhafrah Region; Al Jahili, Al Wadi and Al Towayya Parks in Al Ain city; and Khalifa City Park 3, Sheikha Fatima Park, Dolphin Park, MBZ Park, Khaleej Al Arabi Park, Electra Park and Al Shamkha Park 4 in Abu Dhabi city and surrounding areas.

The initiative has also been designed to help people living in the capital discover public spaces and facilities, says Al Balooshi. “We want to ease the access to sports and also have people know the facilities around. We have some state-of-the-art facilities at parks – from basketball to football courts. We hope this encourages people to discover and use them.”

While the initiative concludes on January 26, the goal is to foster healthy habits that continue well past the programme. “They say it takes 21 days to build a habit – that’s why the course is four weeks long. So exercise can become a daily habit,” says Al Balooshi.

How to participate in Abu Dhabi’s Active Parks programme?

Head to the Active Parks website to view the full schedule of classes, their locations and timings. Alternatively, the schedule can be viewed through a link on the initiative’s Instagram bio. Head to the location at the day and time. Registration is done on-site. Classes can accommodate up to a 100 participants, with social distancing as a safety precaution.

Updated: January 13th 2022, 4:53 AM