DUBAI:  New data from Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) of the 2021 edition of the Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC) shows how the initiative has positively contributed to societal well-being over the last five years.

Since its inception in 2017, Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC), the initiative launched by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, has played a crucial role in encouraging a more active lifestyle and positioning Dubai as one of the best cities in the world to live in, work and visit.

This growing reputation was recently validated by a new study from United Kingdom (UK)-based Lenstore, which cited Dubai as one of the world’s top cities in its Healthy Lifestyle Cities Report 2022. The report evaluated 48 cities to determine which were the best for healthy living, based on ten metrics which included outdoor activities and cost of a monthly gymnasium membership - both significant areas of focus for the DFC.

Established in 2017, the DFC has grown year on year, and has seen the number of participants more than double from 786,000 in its inaugural year to 1,650,000 people in 2021, which represents nearly half of the population of Dubai. Major events such as Dubai Run and Dubai Ride, which began in 2019 and 2020 respectively, saw record numbers in 2021 with 146,000 runners and 33,000 cyclists taking to Sheikh Zayed Road.

The 2021 edition saw an increase in the number of people completing their 30x30 target, with 88 percent of participants committing to a minimum of 30 minutes of daily exercise for 30 days - up from 85 percent in 2020. Many also went beyond, with 36 percent dedicating more than 60 minutes to their health and fitness and 12 percent spending more than 90 minutes exercising each day.

Female participation in the Challenge remained strong in the 5th edition, with women making up two in five (41 percent) of overall participants’ numbers, and while the DFC attracted all age groups, the report revealed that participation levels peaked at ages 18 to 39.

Research amongst participants showed the significant impact of physical activity on mental wellbeing, with 28 percent reporting an improvement in self-esteem and one in four (25 percent) stating that taking part in the DFC enhanced their mental well-being. The Challenge also benefited participants by reducing anxiety (24 percent) and encouraging higher levels of relaxation (22 percent).

There has been an emergence of more free outdoor spaces to work out, hundreds of kilometres of running and cycling tracks and the introduction of many sporting events. The fitness community has also benefitted from their presence at the DFC Fitness Villages and fitness events.

Commenting on the report, Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO of the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), said, "The vision of His Highness has always been to make Dubai one of the most active cities in the world and instil healthy habits in our community. Today, we are proud to share that the number of DFC participants in 2021 represented almost half of Dubai’s population – an increase of 110 percent since the Challenge began five years ago. This incredible achievement demonstrates the community’s commitment to a more active lifestyle, with almost nine out of 10 participants achieving their 30x30 goals and reaping the benefits of the Challenge for both their physical and mental well-being.

The participants’ overall satisfaction was extremely high for the 5th edition with 93 percent extremely happy with their experience – up from 78 percent in 2020. The diversity of activities (88 percent) and access to information about the events (88 percent) resonated most strongly with participants, whilst energetic ambience (87 percent) and easy accessibility to fitness activities and classes (82 percent) also contributed to their satisfaction with the Challenge in 2021.

The initiative was heavily supported by several partners from the government and private sector who helped strengthen the spirit of the community.

The 6th edition of DFC will return from 29th October to 27th November 2022

WAM/Tariq alfaham