For the past month Abu Dhabi’s public parks and urban green spaces have been a sea of sportswear and sneakers, sweatbands, and headbands as the emirate’s diverse communities have embraced free fitness and physical activity coaching as part of the inaugural Active Parks.
Organised by the Department of Community Development in Abu Dhabi (DCD), in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), Municipalities of Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain city, and the Al Dhafra region, as well as the Community Management Department – Al Dhafra Region Affairs, Active Parks featured 380 free-to-attend classes in 12 parks and urban spaces across the Emirate.
Featuring an array of fitness classes, led by expert coaches, including Zumba, RunFit, Bootcamps, CrossFit, Yoga, and dedicated sessions for People of Determination, the month-long programme attracted participation from children as young as 12, people of all different ages, demographics, and fitness levels, and enjoyed high-level support from dignitaries and Government ministers.
Curated to promote a healthy society, promote the benefits of physical activity, and help community members overcome challenges that hinder their adoption of sports, Active Parks was exactly what the Abu Dhabi community needed, according to the expert coaches and fitness enthusiasts who embraced the initiative.
“I saw people making new friends and comfortably communicating with each other even while wearing masks and respecting the social distance measures – that was really nice. We’ve all gone through lockdown, it’s been a tough time for everyone, so, for people to be out there making friends and enjoying fitness together, it’s very important to everyone and their mental health,” said British coach Jamie Chadwick led the final CrossFit session at Khalifa Park 3.
“I loved coaching so many different people from different nationalities and levels of ability, with everyone coming together as a community in the open air It was fantastic.”
The programme impressed popular Egyptian blogger Soha Mohamed Taha, who attended Chadwick’s final session. Enjoying the high intensity interval training (HIIT) session, Taha insists the initiative was ‘hit’ with the public, as she shared photos and videos with her 815,000 Instagram followers.
“It’s a great initiative and to see so many people getting involved was very special. Abu Dhabi has needed something like this, people were so excited to be involved,” says Taha. “The classes were really helpful and so refreshing. I’d love to see it become an annual event.”
Shadi Tohme, more commonly known as Mad Shadz to his 2.1m Tik Tok followers, said the initiative was just the motivation he needed to drag himself out for some physical activity.
“So many times, people – myself included – tend to come up with excuses to avoid certain activities, specifically physical activities,” said Tohme. “Having this motivation and ease of access to expert coaching makes a huge difference because you know you’re going to have a great experience with music, equipment, and lots of other people just like yourself. Overall, it was great vibes, and I would go again. I’m really excited about this initiative because a lot of people are just missing that small push that can make a huge impact on their life and wellbeing.”
It’s a view that echoed right across the park, in between the heavy breathing, sweating and laughter. Sidra Hafeez, who clearly gave her all during the final workout, is hoping the programme returns.
“I thought it was an incredible initiative and I really hope for it to happen on a regular basis,” says Hafeez. “This definitely has the potential to be the lead when it comes to supporting residents of the capital work towards a healthier lifestyle. The choice of various exercises such as YogaFit, CrossFit, Zuma, and DanceFit along with the traditional workouts will really pull people towards the parks. It’s a joy to see everyone get involved, regardless of whether they are a beginner, intermediate, or whatever.”