From losing 50 kg to discovering a new sport: how the Dubai Fitness Challenge has changed the lives of expats

From losing 50 kg to discovering a new sport: how the Dubai Fitness Challenge has changed the lives of expats

Now in its sixth edition, the DFC has played a huge role in influencing the fitness journeys of many people.

Published: Sat 19 Nov 2022, 06:00

When the Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC) was launched, the mission was to transform the emirate into the most active and vibrant city in the world. Every year he gets closer to his ultimate goal, but something more amazing is happening along the way: people have started to change their lives.

With the fitness frenzy now in its sixth edition, Khaleej times met a number of people who found inspiration and decided to change their way of life – all thanks to DFC.

One such person was Dr. Krishnadas Nanath, associate professor and head of the data science program at Middlesex University in Dubai. “My weight was almost triple digits,” he recalls.

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

For 30 days, Krishnadas exercised for 30 minutes and once the month was over, he continued, returning to regular running and cycling.

“The one thing about Dubai is that if you want to be fit, there are so many events throughout the year,” he said. “I started to participate in many races and races. It gave me constant goals to keep working on.


The Dubai resident has now lost over 26kg and is the fittest he has ever been. “People ask me how I find time to exercise,” he said.

“It’s all about priorities. If I watch a movie, no one will ask me how I find time for it. It takes less time than that to complete your exercise. I have now started taking my 3 year old son to events. I want fitness to be a big part of his life as he grows up.

Fat got fit

For Husam Mohamed, the challenge was a turning point. Obese, diabetic and suffering from high blood pressure, the Sudanese national decided to use the DFC as a warning signal.

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

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

“Today I ran a full marathon, competed in the Spartan World Championships and am now a crossfit and nutrition coach. DFC was the biggest kickstarter on the fitness journey of my life.

Similarly, at one point in his life, Sandeep Sathyan weighed 118 kg and was hesitant to even post his photos on social media, fearing ridicule.

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 physical condition. “I was still learning about exercise and diet at the time,” he said. “This month has been a good start for me to commit and be consistent in my exercise.”

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

“I think DFC has been a game changer in my life. Starting in 2017, friends and I take part in various activities around town during the month. Instead of doing our usual gym and games, we discover new activities. I love how fitness suddenly becomes everyone’s goal. Most of us in my friends group manage to keep the momentum of this month going throughout the year.


Discover 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 it as a sign and decided to get in shape.

“There were all these messages about fitness and health, so I was driven by that,” she said. “I always liked sports and was looking for something like football or basketball.”

After searching for a while, she found a club, but they only offered free rugby lessons. “I had never even seen a rugby game in my life,” she said. However, it turned out to be a much-needed turning point in his life. Rugby became her solace as she navigated through difficult life situations.

Today, she is an established rugby player who has appeared in several major tournaments in the country. His dream is to try out for the Indian national rugby team. “I know there are weaknesses that I need to work on, but I hope I will succeed,” she said. “I am so thankful for the DFC and how it has transformed my life.”


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