Staying fit can be fun with Capoeira in the UAE

Staying fit does not have to be a chore and it can involve fun activities such as dancing, martial arts and acrobatics.

A demonstration of Capoeira at the Health and Fitness Fun Festival at Adnec. Ravindranath K / The National
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As the long, hot summer approaches, the Brazilian martial art which combines dance and self-defence techniques is a musical exercise that is a lively alternative to going to the gym.

ABU DHABI // Staying fit does not have to be a chore and it can involve fun activities such as dancing, martial arts and acrobatics.

That is what visitors at the Health and Fitness Fun Festival, which opened on Wednesday, learnt.

Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that plantation slaves had practised, allowed them to disguise the self-defence techniques as dance moves so as not to arouse their owners’ suspicion.

Capoeira integrates acrobatic movements into a rhythmic sequence of moves that, when perfected, can be lethal and formidable.

“Some moves require the entire body, kicks that originate from placing your hand on the floor and swinging your body as you kick. If that’s met with a face it means broken bones,” said Leila Othman, an instructor at Capoeira Abu Dhabi Caxias.

The sport has gained popularity as a bridge between dance, martial arts and exercise.

“It has music in it and acrobatics, incorporating elements of dance and music,” said Ms Othman, who has been practising Capoeira for about four years.

“It’s the element of acrobatics involved with a deadly martial art that requires a lot of physical strength, flexibility and movement.” The 26-year-old became involved in Capoeira after her childhood dance school closed.

It was the perfect sport given her passion for dance and her desire to stay in shape, she said.

Music is an integral part of Capoeira. “You sing with it as well, because you know how you can do things better and faster with music, so it brings you energy and you get better,” Ms Othman said.

The idea behind alternative exercises, as opposed to going to the gym, is to continue exercising despite an aversion to the gym, which is key to changing lifestyles, according to Vesalius Wheagbah, a fitness instructor at Lifeline Fitness Centre. “It doesn’t matter what exercise is better. We just want people to get involved in any way. That’s why we do lots of programmes with different activities, from body pump to hip hop dancing classes,” he said.

But the long, hot summers in the UAE create the perfect excuse for people to get out of the habit of exercise and return to unhealthy lifestyles. “Many people are obese. There is a problem with diabetes, so you can get it out of your system by working out in whichever way you enjoy,” said Mr Wheagbah.

There are ways to exercise besides going to a gym, he said. “It’s just the matter of getting people out and moving, doing exercise instead of sitting inside. So whatever method you choose, as long as it’s moving you, you will become addicted to it,” he said.

For Conner Wyness, scuba diving is his choice of exercise.

The 19-year old intern at Al Mahara Diving Centre said a scuba diving session could be just as physically taxing as an intense workout. “Most people wouldn’t think of scuba diving as exercise but it is an actual sport,” he said.

“After a long dive you have the feeling like you’ve exerted yourself, like you’ve just come back from the gym.”

To properly enjoy scuba diving, a person has to be fit in different ways, including being a strong swimmer and increasing cardiovascular workouts, he said. Although scuba diving may not be as strenuous as some gym sessions, it makes up for it as it is a workout for the body and the mind.

“You go down and you see things. It’s extremely engaging, physically because it requires a certain level of work, and mentally because you need to pay attention to the safety precautions,” Mr Wyness said.

The Health and Fitness Fun Festival, which is being held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Centre’s atrium and halls 2, 3 and 4, ends on Thursday.