Sheikh Hamdan at Dubai Run
Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, led the Dubai Run Image Credit: Government of Dubai Media Office/@DXBMediaOffice

Dubai: The sixth annual Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC) has concluded after an action-packed, month-long celebration of fitness and wellness.

The challenge, an initiative of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, aimed at making Dubai a happier and healthier city, saw 2,212,246 participants committing to 30 minutes of exercise, every day, for 30 days, according to a Media Office press release on Saturday.

Held from 29 October to 27 November 2022, the annual fitness movement featured an extensive range of free fitness events and activities across the city. The Challenge offered an exhilarating month of fun and inclusive fitness activities across two fitness villages, DP World Kite Beach Fitness Village, and RTA Last Exit Al Khawaneej Fitness Village, as well as 19 community fitness hubs, a host of sporting events and thousands of free classes across the city.

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Mega fitness events

In addition, participants had a chance to take part in two mega fitness events on Sheikh Zayed Road — Dubai Ride Presented by DP World, and Dubai Run Presented by Mai Dubai — in addition to the inaugural Expo City Dubai Sports and Fitness Weekend, offering over 45 partner sporting events and more than 13,000 free fitness classes. The Fitness Villages and Fitness Hubs alone were attended by more than 263,000 participants who had the opportunity to engage in diverse activities ranging from Padel tennis and football training to rowing and spinning, apart from several fun high-energy group workouts, suitable for all fitness levels.

Amazing accomplishments

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed said: “With the conclusion of the Dubai Fitness Challenge, I would like to reflect on the amazing accomplishments of the 2,212,246 participants who made a commitment to their health and well-being by taking part in the inspirational fitness movement. The participants have set an example for committing to improve their health and well-being and contributed to transforming the fitness mindset of the entire community. I want to thank each and every individual, government agency, business and organisation who contributed to or took part in this initiative. Together, we are well on the way to becoming the fittest city in the world. While the challenge is over for another year, I encourage all of you to stay active and continue your fitness journey by embracing everything our great city has to offer.”

Success stories

Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO of Dubai Festivals & Retail Establishment, said: “Since its inception six years ago, DFC has inspired numerous success stories of fitness and wellness journeys, from those just getting started, to fitness enthusiasts who have achieved new milestones. DFC will continue to be a source of inspiration and encouragement for the citizens, residents and visitors of Dubai, encouraging them to commit to a healthier and more active lifestyle. To see a record 2.2 million participants this year is truly inspiring — including almost 35,000 cyclists for Dubai Ride and over 193,000 runners for Dubai Run on Sheikh Zayed Road. As we look back over the last 30 days, it’s truly remarkable to see our city’s commitment to prioritising health and well-being. I would like to thank everyone who made this happen for the sixth edition of Dubai Fitness Challenge. It is a very special initiative and one I’m immensely proud to be part of.”

Towards one goal

Saeed Hareb, General Secretary of Dubai Sports Council said: “With 2.2 million people taking part in this year’s Dubai Fitness Challenge, we have once again demonstrated our constant dedication to maintaining our physical and mental health as one community working together towards one goal — a fitter and healthier future for all. DFC was designed to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the incredible range of fitness facilities the city has to offer, while challenging one another to reach new goals and embrace a more active lifestyle. The small changes made, and healthy habits started, during DFC do not need to end when the challenge does. I encourage everyone to continue prioritising their physical and mental well-being throughout the whole year. The sixth edition of Dubai Fitness Challenge has been another resounding success and I would like to thank everyone involved for this incredible achievement.”

Steady increase

Since its inception, Dubai Fitness Challenge has seen a steady increase in interest and engagement with the number of registered participants growing over 180% from 786,000 in the inaugural event in 2017 to 2.2 million in the 2022 edition. Participants in Dubai Run increased 176% from 70,000 runners in the inaugural edition in 2019 to 193,000 in 2022. Cyclists taking part in Dubai Ride increased 75% from 20,000 in 2020 to 34,897 in 2022. The annual event makes Dubai the only city in the world that offers its citizens and visitors an entire month of free and inclusive fitness classes, activities and events, which are easily accessible across the emirate.

Health and fitness awareness

Over the last five years, the Dubai Fitness Challenge has had a significant impact on raising public awareness about the role of physical activity in enhancing health and reducing lifestyle diseases. Dr. Ramadan Al Blooshi, Acting Director of the Public Health Protection Department at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said: “At a community level, Dubai Fitness Challenge has helped significantly raise public health awareness and instill a better fitness mindset in the community. The event has encouraged people to adopt simple but effective lifestyle habits. Such public health-driven awareness activities play a crucial role in changing the focus of community members from post-diagnosis care to prevention of lifestyle diseases. This not only improves the lifestyle of the community but also directly helps mitigate the impact of lifestyle diseases on the health system.”

Year after year, the citywide annual fitness initiative has delivered its objective of positively impacting social well-being through a broad spectrum of wellness, sporting and fitness activities. According to a post-DFC survey conducted following the 2021 edition, participants reported immense psychological benefits including positive self-esteem (28 per cent) and reinforcement of mental well-being (25 per cent). The DFC survey showed that 52 per cent of overall participants logged between 30-60 minutes of activity a day, while 24 per cent pushed themselves further and clocked in more than 60 minutes a day. Overall, 88 per cent of all DFC 2021 participants reported achieving their 30x30 targets.

Community fitness infrastructure

In parallel to the growth of the Dubai Fitness Challenge, the emirate has also expanded its community sporting infrastructure and free fitness and lifestyle facilities across the city. The Roads and Transport Authority announced earlier this month that it will increase the network of its cycling tracks from the 542km achieved in the first quarter of 2022 to 819km by the end of 2026, as part of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan. The public also have access to running and cycling tracks and exercise equipment in both parks and beaches. Dubai Municipality has developed running tracks in various parks currently extending to a total of 37.7km, while bicycle tracks in parks extend 15.7km. A total of 12km of walking tracks have also been developed by Dubai Municipality in public beaches. The cycling and running tracks have proven to be extremely popular with about 1.86 million people using them so far in 2022.

The growing fitness consciousness of the Dubai community is also reflected in the emirate’s rising trade in sports merchandise. The value of Dubai’s foreign trade in sports equipment in 2021 reached AED1.22 billion, while in the first ten months of 2022 (January to October), foreign trade in sports equipment reached AED1.1 billion.