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Be a good sport and boost your health

The UAE has sent a total of 30 athletes to compete in the London Olympics, which open today. But as well as watching the Games on TV, why not use this month to get fit? Friday guides you through the best Olympic sports to try and all their health benefits

  • Football
    Football helps to increase endorphins, which make moods stable and can alleviate the symptoms of depression anImage Credit: AP
  • Football
    A good peddle will tone your legs and help with your core stability.Image Credit: Oliver Clarke/Gulf News
  • Football
    Doing a few laps in the pool is great exercise for your heart and lungs, and can firm up the entire body. Image Credit: AP
  • Football
    Tennis helps lower your body’s resting heart rate, increase bone density, reduce blood pressure, improve metabImage Credit:
  • Football
    Fencing improves coordination, strength and flexibility because of the different positions and movements used Image Credit: EPA

The lucky ones have got their plane tickets and entrance to an Olympic event sorted, but cost and practicality mean the majority of us can’t be there to enjoy the thrill of seeing the world’s top sports people competing in London.

But there are lots of ways to enjoy the Olympics without actually being there. While you can easily catch the event being broadcast on your TV or on big screens across Dubai, why stop at being a spectator? Use the following weeks’ Olympic spirit as the catalyst you need to try new sports – not only will you become a small part of a legendary event that can trace its roots back to 776BC ancient Greece, you’ll also be doing wonders for your health.

“Everyone should aim to exercise three to four times a week; this alone reduces the risk of heart disease by 20 per cent,” says Guillaume Mariole, managing director of Ignite Fitness and Wellness in Dubai. “Although if you want to excel in the sport of your choice you’ll, of course, need to increase the number of hours and sessions.”

You might think you feel too tired after a long day at work to get involved in a sport, but exercise will actually make you feel more energetic.

Guillaume explains, “It promotes the release of endorphins into the body, which are feel-good hormones that make you happier, and it also helps to combat the
toxins that can get stored in fatty areas of the body when we don’t partake in much physical activity.”

UK-based personal trainer and sports massage therapist, Emily Whitehead, agrees, “Exercise improves your mental health, sense of well-being and can help reduce the risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, depression, and issues with bones and joints. It also helps to reduce stress, with weight management, and improves sleep.”

So even though it’s summer, and hot, it’s still as good a time as any to kick off your exercise regime – as long as you take sensible precautions, especially if you’re fasting.

“Ensure you keep hydrated – pre and post your sporting session – when exercising in the current conditions,” warns Guillaume, who, in his other role as master trainer for Technogym, has been lucky enough to be selected to represent the sports equipment brand in the Olympic Village over the next few weeks.

He recommends training early in the morning before 7am and in the evening after
7pm to avoid the harsh sun and the worst of the heat.

On top of the health benefits, participating in a sport is also a great way to meet new people. So leave all your excuses behind – here’s our list of ways that you can be a ‘good sport’ and how each can make you feel and look fabulous.


There’s great camaraderie in team sports. It is social and competitive, not to mention great for toning leg muscles and getting fit – a 70kg person burns 350 calories in 30 minutes of competitive football, according to fitness website HealthStatus.

In addition to the sociable element, football also helps to increase endorphins, which make moods stable and can alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Whether you’re after a casual kick about or a game of five-a-side, get involved. E-sports Dubai has classes (, or you can join a recreational or competitive league via Duplays (


Getting on your bike is great for the heart – a major study of more than 10,000 people found those who cycle at least 20 miles a week are half as likely to have heart problems as those who don’t cycle at all. A good peddle will tone your legs and help with your core stability. It burns about 300 calories an hour, so prepare to drop a few kilos too.

While the UAE’s busy roads mean it’s not easy for everyone to integrate cycling into a commute, if you live close to work or have a grocery store within a short car ride, consider buying a bike and cycling instead when the weather cools down – if you’re worried about making time for exercise, it’s an excellent way of incorporating regular activity into your daily routine.

Because the bike supports your body, cycling isn’t necessarily a weight-bearing exercise, so it’s good for people with certain bone and joint problems because
it puts very little pressure on them. It will help your stomach muscles and strengthen upper body and arms.

While you can hop on an exercise bike at the gym any time, Dubai Roadsters promotes social, recreational cycling in Dubai through regular cycling events, including weekly club rides, training rides, tours through the desert and mountains of the UAE and the occasional race (see Or get yourself bike-ready first with a few fitness-building spin classes – Core Direction holds weekly sessions (


Doing a few laps in the pool is great exercise for your heart and lungs, and can firm up the entire body. It’s especially good if you have knee problems as it’s nonimpact.

Just a few lengths involves most of the major muscle groups, giving your body a good workout, and if you crank up the pace, you’ll get a brilliant aerobic
workout, too. It’s also an effective form of fat-burning exercise: because you can swim at your own pace, you can keep swimming for longer periods, and maintaining your staying power is a vital goal for burning fat.

What better way to tone up and cool down than with a pleasant dip in the sea or a local pool? But always check with outdoor swimming guides and coastguards first to make sure it’s safe to swim.

In addition, swimming and enjoying the beauty of nature is fantastic for your general well-being.

If you’re wary of the sea and don’t have a pool in your home, or to find out about swimming coaching, go to E-sports Dubai ( or the Deirabased Excel (


If you’re after a good hit of happy hormones, then running is your game. You’ll get what they call the ‘runner’s high’ even after a trot around the block.

Running is excellent for your leg muscles and a great way to lose weight – you’ll notice increased muscle toning and better fitness levels after just a couple of weeks.

Getting out of the front door is the hardest part, so doing it with others will be a motivator, and if you want to avoid wear and tear on joints, run on grass or a track.

If you don’t want to face the heat during the summer then the gym treadmill is a good option – find your nearest gym at

But if you’re feeling brave then a jog in a park with a soft running track like Al Barsha Pond Park is easier on the knees and completely free. Or if you want some
guidance and moral support, Urban Energy Fitness holds non-intimidating running clubs for people of all ages and abilities (

It’s currently offering ten-week training packages for those interested in entering the women’s 5km or 10km race in November (early-bird price of Dh900 including entrance), plus packages for anyone with the ambition of ticking either a half marathon or even a marathon off their bucket list. Email or call 050 6571182 for more information.


The annual tournament at Wimbledon is known to trigger a rush to the courts, and this is a sport that can suit all ages and fitness levels and is very sociable.

Tennis helps lower your body’s resting heart rate, increase bone density, reduce blood pressure, improve metabolic function, relieve stress, and reduce body fat.

It’s also good for your aerobic fitness, muscle tone and flexibility. And if that’s not enough reasons to take up the sport, it’s a great outlet for your ruthlessly competitive side.

Plus you just can’t help but lose a bit of weight. Playing singles for one hour burns approximately 600 calories in men and 420 calories in women, making it as
effective as lifting weights or a spin class.

However, racket games, like tennis, squash and badminton are known as ‘multiple sprint sports’, which require a combination of skill, stamina, power and
reaction time and can be taxing on the body.

The high-intensity bursts involved can be associated with injuries – be sure you warm up and stretch before and afterwards, and that you don’t push yourself too hard too quickly. For more information on how to get involved in tennis in Dubai, visit the Clark Francis Tennis website ( or Al Nasr Leisureland (

Horse riding

If you want to give your legs a workout, then horse riding will do it. It’ll help with your core strength because your whole body has to work to keep you balanced. Being around animals is therapeutic and can also engender a
sense of wellbeing. For more information, visit Al Ahli Horse Riding Club (


This is another total body workout. There are a huge variety of disciplines in gymnastics and most will help with upper body strength, balance and coordination. Any gymnastics performed to music is especially good for you as music can be uplifting to your spirits and boost mood.

It’s an aerobic activity that improves the condition of the heart and lungs, tests your balance, and requires muscular endurance and motor fitness. Dance classes such as Zumba or Salsa are also a very easy way of meeting people.

For more on gymnastics for children, visit Active Sports Academy ( or adults can take part in gymnastics at Or take your pick from one of the weekly dance classes at


All that heave-ho-ing is fantastic for stomach muscles.

It’s another high-calorie burner, so expect to shed some weight, and it’s excellent for lung function.

The rowing machine at the gym is one way to get into the sport, but in the cooler months you’re much better off getting into a club where you can be in the great outdoors, take in some fresh air and meet new people out on the same mission as you. For more information, visit The Dubai Rowing and Sculling Club that’s run by the Dubai International Marine Club (


This contact sport is great for your strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health. It’s also a surefire way to meet people – there’s nothing like wrestling someone to the ground to get to know them! Importantly, it’s a way of building your confidence and ability in self-defence.

It’s known for instilling a sense of mental toughness and discipline. For more information, visit Abu Dhabi Combat Club ( and Dubai Karate Centre (


Fencing is great cardiovascular exercise as it’s fast paced. It improves coordination, strength and flexibility because of the different positions and movements used throughout the body.

Training for this sport could also reduce stress and be an aid to developing judgment and deduction skills, as you have to anticipate your opponent’s moves. Fencing may improve your self-esteem, self assurance and self-discipline. For more information, visit MK Fencing Academy (


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