#healthyliving: Dubai mall walkers say rising temperature no excuse for not exercising

Mall walking is just one of the ways in which people can keep fit during summer, and one mother and her children are avid followers of the popular pursuit.

Mall walkers during the morning leg-stretch at Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
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DUBAI // The temperature outside may be nudging 50°C but fitness advisers say the heat is no excuse to abandon a healthy routine by staying indoors at home throughout the summer.

Hot and humid weather is often an excuse to abandon regular outdoor exercise, but one family is showing how staying active can be easy to work into a weekly routine by taking regular walks around malls in Dubai.

Joy Santiago, 36, takes her three children, Iona, 11, Io, 9, and Juno, 6, to walk around Dubai Mall for two hours, three times a week after school.

“I have a busy schedule with three young children, so walking around the malls is an easy way to stay fit,” said Mrs Santiago, a Filipina who lives in Al Nahda.

“It is too hot to go to the park but I don’t want them to be sitting at home all day throughout summer, so we all go on regular walks to the mall.

“It is good exercise and we walk for up to two hours after school. The kids love walking and it is good for them when it is so hot outside.”

Mrs Santiago was advised to go mall walking by her nutrition and health coach, Minnie Bustamante, who said many people worry about overheating so avoid exercising in the summer. “The summer period is a long time and it can get really hot, but it is important to stay active,” she said. “I work on new ideas for people to keep working out, without going to the gym or staying in the house.

“The most important thing is hydration. People exercising should drink three litres a day during the summer months.

“It is even important for sedentary people to keep their fluids up, because they are sweating even at home trying to keep cool.”

Ms Bustamante said acclimatisation to fitness in hot conditions can take as little as four days, but most people should expect to increase the time they spend outside over a period of two weeks.

Rehydration is also an important part of the acclimatisation process, and replacing salts and electrolytes are as important as topping up fluids.

Exercising early in the morning or in the evening at sundown is the safest time to exercise outdoors. “I have encouraged my clients to go for a brisk walk or light jog around the mall in summer,” she said.

“Mall of the Emirates is famous for people running around it because it is cool and the terrain is amazing, not slippery. Having targets are good, like steps in a day or a week.

“People can challenge themselves to walk around a mall to cover the same distance as a marathon or up a famous mountain.

“Technology, like step counters on smart mobile-phone apps, can make mall walking fun, and are easily accessible now.”

Majid Al Futtaim Properties, which manages Mall of the Emirates, said although there were no plans in place to organise mall runs or walks, there were no restrictions on people running or walking.

Cedric Betis, chairman of Dubai Holdings’ Wellness Committee, who has a master’s degree in sports science, said it was easy for people to make simple changes at work to stay fit during summer. “The sad reality is life is too easy for some and people get lazy,” he said.

“The weather is an excuse for some, but even in summer people can exercise. Walking is also very important – 10,000 steps a day, or 30 minutes of daily exercise. There are plenty of solutions to stay active.”