Free online workouts for fitness enthusiasts as part of COVID-19 solidarity Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The coronavirus pandemic has placed an emphasis on the importance of social distancing in society. As part of setting an example, UAE-based fitness instructors have each started an initiative in their communities, which has now become a trend. They have opened their hearts and homes, offering free online workouts to fitness enthusiasts.

Live group exercise classes are on daily and anyone can plug into these to get their favourite workout.

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, UAE residents say it is heartening to see gym instructors doing their bit to ensure people stay physically active from the comfort of their homes.

“The gym is now at your home and there is no excuse anymore to get unfit. What is more, these online classes are free for members and public. Not just that – from the day fitness centres closed – members’ accounts were frozen. This means their membership has been extended until the time the shutters open once again for gym goers. It is heartening to see the solidarity all round,” said Erum Suleman, a Pakistani expat in Dubai and a regular gym goer.

UAE residents react
Pakistani expat Erum Suleman, 44, is missing her gym friends but is also enjoying online fitness sessions Image Credit: Supplied

When gym centres were shut down world-wide and in the UAE, George Flooks, CEO, Fitness First Middle East and North Africa, gave a rather emotional statement. In a social media telecast, he said: “During this time as our Fitness First gym doors are closed, we remain completely committed to supporting our members and the wider community’s health and wellbeing.”

In an email statement exclusive to Gulf News, Flooks said following the COVID-19 outbreak, Fitness First has launched #JointheMovement initiative, where fitness instructors post live videos of various workouts that reach several hundreds of thousands of people every day.

George Flook, CEO Fitness First
George Flook, CEO Fitness First Middle East Image Credit: Supplied

Flooks pointed out that as many as 125,000 people to date have taken part in the centre’s program. “It is great to see people staying connected to their fitness regime right from the comfort of their living rooms,” he said.

“Since our group exercise live classes were launched, the engagement, demand and interaction from our members has exceeded our expectations. We offer four classes every day, which will increase to six classes per day from April 1.”

Basically, members and public get access to a number of fitness workouts like Zumba, Body Combat, HIIT, Boxing, TUFF, Yoga. To engage the community even more, Fitness First has also launched kids and couples workouts too. Again all for free.

Christina Macchiarola works out in her apartment Image Credit: Supplied

“You can practically workout all day if you want – that is the kind of reach it is giving,” said Alex Callum, another fitness enthusiast and regular gym goer in Dubai.

Suleman, who never missed a day at her favourite gym in Dubai, said she is now hooked on Instagram where she gets to see live workout sessions.

“It feels like being in the gym. Of course I don’t have equipments at home but instructors have designed short 30 minute schedules with emphasis on body weight. Trust me, I sweat a lot at the end of a session. I do however, miss my instructors and friends at the gym. But the online videos are motivating me to stay fit.”

French expat Ulma Joueidi, a freelance trainer, who conducts classes at various gyms including Fitness Pavillion, Fitness 360, and Fitness 4 life, said she takes classes every day on Zoom Cloud App and on her Instagram handle.

A certified trainer based in Dubai, Joueidi said she has seen a good turn-out of people in her virtual classes. Again, these sessions are free for anyone to access from the comfort of their home.

French expat Ulma Joueidi, a freelance trainer, conducts online fitness sessions Image Credit: Supplied

“For freestyle classes and workouts I go live on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. For licensed programs I use Zoom Cloud Meeting app to share my workouts. For the Zoom app, I share my link with my social media followers so they can easily access the virtual class. I also share a pre-recorded workout easy to do at home using body weight or any tool around the house if gym equipments are not available,” she explained.

“Why am I doing this? We are in this together. We all need a motivation to keep us fit and sane amid this crisis. We also must be able to interact and connect with others to feel loved. Lastly, I need to work-out as well, and sharing it with people gives me joy.”

Andrea Giovannini, Group Exercise Programmes manager at Fitness First MENA said: “Although we are in a difficult time, we instructors are pushing hard to create positivity. Remember when you work-out you release happy harmones and this is what we need at the moment. It is interesting to see how social media has suddenly become the platform for online workouts. What was thought to be a modern day curse, social media has turned a boon."

Andrea Giovannini, Group Exercise Programmes manager Fitness First MENA prepares for a live video workout Image Credit: Supplied

Joseph Terterian, 32, another fitness instructor in Dubai, who teaches at FitRepublik Fitness Centre, StudioRepublik and TribeFit, could not agree more. “Social media has become a channel for the community to express solidarity amid COVID-19 crisis. I personally go live everyday on my personal Instagram handle and on Zoom Cloud App to share my workouts. My students have been missing me and I thought why not stay connected with them virtually. Of course all my classes are free from the comfort of my home. It is a way of giving back to my students and fitness enthusiasts.”

“We are all in this together and we need to support each other in anyway possible. I love spreading love and happiness to people so this is the least I can do. Let people shake the Corona away.”

Fitness instructors and enthusiasts can interact during sessions Image Credit: Supplied

Terterian said the response is great and his session record at least 20 people at a time. “This is pretty much the attendance I would see if I was doing a live physical class. So people are tuning in and staying in touch with their fitness regime.

Dana Campari, National Group Exercise Manager of Fitness First MENA, said : "When we launched live streaming of  group classes and the 30 minutes You Tube workouts, our only focus was our customers. We wanted to stay connected, continue to bring joy through the classes and spread a positive message about strength and faith for the world. And we made it. More than 100 staff is involved in the project and we are creating classes and content 24/7 to ensure that the community will have the best product in their homes. We will continue supporting our costumers to do daily exercises, meditations and stay safe."

Meanwhile, a UAE-based gym equipment provider said there has been a 85 per cent surge in sales of home equipments.

Matrix Fitness, a commercial and residential fitness brand in the Middle East, owned and managed by Johnson Health Tech UAE LLC, said there has been a hike in sales for gym equipments in the UAE since the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Lotfi Hamrouni, Sales and Marketing Director at Johnson Health Tech Middle East, the biggest current sellers are treadmills, ellipticals and bikes respectively.

Hamrouni said the demand for home gym equipment from fitness lovers has kept him and his team busier than usual over the past three weeks.

“Now more than ever, we are all united in a common goal to keep our health and that of those around us, intact,” he said.