Former SAS soldier Ant Middleton's big plans to help UAE children get fit

Star of SAS: Who Dares Wins TV show sets sights on childhood obesity

Ep3.  Ant with the recruits.
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A former SAS soldier and TV personality is targeting obesity in the UAE by setting up confidence-building boot camps for children.

Ant Middleton – who starred in the SAS: Who Dares Wins TV series in the UK – moved to the UAE earlier this year with an eye on transforming the health of young people.

He hopes to create a purpose-built desert camp in Liwa in partnership with local investors to encourage young people to confront their fears, build confidence and enhance leadership skills.

“I've always wanted to do something (for children) that’s preventative, rather than a cure,” he said.

“When it comes to discipline, structure and psychological resilience, many kids are psychologically weak nowadays.

“If we can send them off to an SAS island or an SAS retreat, and make sure that every year there's room for children's camps, it can give them skills that will last a lifetime.

“It's sort of like a military style academy, let's say, where I teach them how to swim or tackle a fear of heights, to build a basis of discipline.

“Young people need to know what it's like getting up each morning and to be self sustainable, by making their own bed and putting on their own clothes.

“I can't believe when I go to football and rugby with my children and I see maids putting on socks and boots for kids that are 11 or 12, it's insane.”

Training camps

Mr Middleton has been encouraged to set up youth training camps in the UAE by local figures, who backed his attempts to confront the issue of childhood obesity head-on.

By developing good habits at an early age, it is hoped children and young people can avoid ill health later in life.

A national plan is under way by the Ministry of Health and Prevention to address the issue of childhood obesity that has become a worldwide problem.

An estimated 170 million children under the age of 18 are overweight, with a huge increase reported in the last 30 years.

A raised body mass index is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and many cancers, causing early death and long-term suffering.

In the UAE, children who are overweight or obese is one of the most serious public health problems. Up to 14.4 per cent are obese, the ministry said.

Mr Middleton, a former British Army royal marines commando, royal engineer and UK special forces soldier, is best known for his role as chief instructor on SAS: Who Dares Wins.

The show sees a group of ex-army soldiers put recruits through the ringer as they attempt to pass the gruelling Special Air Services screening process.

It is a test of mental, emotional and physical strength – with Mr Middleton, 43, hoping a similar format can inspire young people to lead a healthier life in the UAE.

“Obesity and diabetes are rife because children just have what they want, with little structure to their lives,” he said.

“Since I've been in Dubai I've been approached by a lot of the schools to talk to their Year 6 and Year 7 pupils and conduct practical sessions.

“I'm going to be talking about emotional intelligence, about their thought process and tapping into their mindsets.

Overcome fears

“Many children are told how to think, how to act – they don't think for themselves and you can see it in the choices they make.”

Mr Middleton will focus on day camps for young people and building an extreme team-building retreat for businesses and corporations next year.

Plans include a desert camp to include facilities for horse riding, dune buggies and a high water obstacle course.

He wants workers attending team building exercises – and young people – to realise their potential by pushing their limits of physical, psychological and emotional capability.

“The pleasure I get from the SAS show is the switch that I see in people on the day, in that moment I see something in them,” he said.

“The penny drops, and they realise what they're capable of.

“That moment of change may only be something small, but they can go away and use it in everyday life to become a better version of who they are.”

Updated: December 29, 2023, 3:33 AM