From losing 50kg to discovering new sports: how the Dubai Fitness Challenge changed expats’ lives – News

Now in its sixth edition, the DFC has played a tremendous role in influencing several people’s fitness journeys



Released: Sat. 19.11.2022, 06:00 a.m

When the Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC) was launched, the mission was to transform the emirate into the most active and dynamic city in the world. Each year it gets closer to its final destination, but something more incredible happens along the way: people have started changing their lives.

As the fitness frenzy continues into its sixth installment, Khaleej Times met a bunch of people who found inspiration and decided to change their lifestyle – all thanks to DFC.

One of these people was Dr. Krishnadas Nanath, Associate Professor and Head of Data Science Program at Middlesex University Dubai. “My weight was almost in the triple digits,” he recalls.

“I decided I had to do something about it, and that’s when last year’s fitness challenge came our way. I had read that it takes 21 days to form a habit, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to test that hypothesis.”

For 30 days Krishnadas exercised for 30 minutes and when the month was over he just went ahead and started running and cycling regularly.

“The one thing about Dubai is that there are so many events throughout the year if you want to get fit,” he said. “I started competing in a lot of runs and races. This gave me constant goals to keep working towards.”

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The Dubai resident has now lost over 26kg and is fitter than ever. “People ask me how I find time for fitness,” he said.

“It’s about priorities. When I watch a film, nobody will ask me how I find the time for it. It takes less time to complete your exercise. I have now started taking my 3 year old son to events. I want fitness to be a regular part of his life when he grows up.”

Fat got fit

For Husam Mohamed, the challenge was a turning point. The Sudanese national, who is obese, diabetic and battling high blood pressure, decided to use the DFC as a wake-up call.

“I was inspired by how our Crown Prince called on everyone to get fit and healthy,” he said. “I was always a big fan of his. So decided to take up the challenge.”

In a remarkable feat, the Dubai resident lost over 50kg. “I could barely take a few steps without stopping to catch my breath,” he said.

“Today I ran a full marathon, competed in the Spartan World Championship and am now a crossfit and nutrition coach. The DFC has been the biggest catalyst for the fitness journey of my life.”

Similarly, at one point in his life, Sandeep Sathyan weighed a whopping 118kg and even shied away from posting his photos on social media for fear of being ridiculed.

However, when the Dubai Municipality launched the Your Weight in Gold campaign, he was motivated to lose weight.

Shortly after, when the Dubai Fitness Challenge started, he took the opportunity to improve his fitness. “At that time, I was still learning about exercise and nutrition,” he said. “That month was a great start for me to get involved and exercise regularly.”

Today the resident of Dubai weighs 70 kg and couldn’t be happier. “My health and confidence have changed drastically,” he said.

“I think the DFC has fundamentally changed my life. As of 2017, friends and I participate in various activities around town throughout the month. Instead of doing our usual gym and games, we’re looking at new activities. I love how fitness is suddenly becoming everyone’s focus. Most of us in my group of friends manage to keep the momentum of this month throughout the year.”

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Taking up a new sport

In 2017, Jeena Jacob had just given birth to her first child and was feeling overweight and unhappy. When the fitness challenge started, she took that as a sign and decided to get fit.

“There were all these messages about getting fit and staying healthy, so I was motivated by that,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed sports and was looking for something like football or basketball.”

After looking around for a while she found a club but they only offered free rugby lessons. “I had never seen a rugby match in my life,” she said. However, this proved to be a much-needed turning point in her life. Rugby became her comfort as she navigated difficult life situations.

Today she is an established rugby player having competed in several of the country’s major tournaments. Her dream is to play for the Indian national rugby team. “I know there are some weaknesses I need to work on, but I’m confident I can pull it off,” she said. “I am so grateful for the DFC and the way it has changed my life.”

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