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Most of us are guilty of falling short of our fitness targets at some point. We invest in gym memberships, enrol in exercise classes and hit the treadmill, vowing to change our lifestyles. Yet, life can sometimes get in the way of our best intentions. Long hours in an office can make it difficult to find motivation after work. Many of us juggle busy lives, where we struggle to balance our hectic family and social responsibilities. Our own well-being subsequently falls by the wayside in favour of our kids and close friends. Yet, fitness doesn’t necessarily entail hours each day pumping iron or covering 20km on an exercise bike.

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, is calling for just half an hour of every resident’s time each day. The crown prince’s initiative encourages residents to dedicate just 30 minutes of their day for 30 days, from October 20 to November 18. The intention is to make Dubai the most active city in the world.

The challenge will see free fitness events, classes and events springing up across the emirate in what promises to be a groundbreaking initiative where people of all ages and abilities can get involved.

One of the common reasons for people’s reluctance to step across the threshold of their gym, participate in team sports or sign up for an exercise class is a lack of self-belief. Gello Marquez, Personal Trainer at TribeFit, is keen to emphasise that, although some people may be concerned about their fitness levels, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t start exercising. As long as they are precautious and stay realistic about their abilities, they should be able to improve their stamina, strength and cardiovascular health without suffering any complications or injuries. 

“If someone is unfit or new to working out, I would suggest starting with low-intensity exercise such as distance training,” says Marquez. “I would also suggest long periods of training, as they will need more rest.”

While 30 minutes of daily exercise each day will make a huge difference to your health if you’ve previously been leading a sedentary lifestyle, Marquez encourages people with lower fitness levels to invest more time in their health if possible. He advises 45 minutes to one hour of low-intensity exercise a day.

The best possible results

If you are participating in the Dubai’s Fitness Challenge and you want the best possible results from your 30 minutes of exercise, Marquez recommends high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as an effective solution. “For endurance, you can mix cardio and weights. For example, you can introduce some circuits in the middle of your workout, where you run for 200 metres. Most of the time in HIIT workouts, it’s a combination of cardiovascular and weight training because, depending on the programme, there will be a bit of weight training, because you are using your own bodyweight, and there will be some cardio too as there will be jumping, obstacle exercises and running.”

While HIIT workouts are popular with fit people who exercise frequently, Marquez sees no reason why people with lower levels of stamina and cardiovascular health can’t adopt the same approach to fitness. He even believes that they should follow the same short interval routines as their fitter counterparts. 

“For people who are unfit, I would not suggest longer intervals between HIIT training. They should try 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. You should keep the same timings as a normal HIIT workout but exercise at your own pace.”

Regardless of the intensity of your HIIT session, an important consideration is to use as many of your different muscle groups as possible, to get the best all-body workout possible in 30 minutes. 

Preparation is key

Marquez is keen to stress that any intensive workout shouldn’t be started without sensible preparation. “Stretching and warming up are very important. Most of the movement in HIIT is very explosive, so when it comes to the warm-up, make sure you raise your heart rate. During the workout, you will work at high intensity for around 30 minutes.” 

Once you’ve completed your intensive 30-minute workout, warming down is as important as preparation, explains the TribeFit trainer. “After intensive training, never sit or lie down because your heart rate is still very high. Instead, you should walk around, shake your limbs and stretch your muscles.” Following your warm-down, you can congratulate yourself for taking up the challenge and hopefully, it will improve your exercise habits for more than the 30 days.