By Lubna Hamdan
Les Mills International fitness classes use digital technology to motivate residents to workout
Tech-savvy concepts such as virtual reality exercise classes might be the key to boosting the UAE’s exercise levels, according to fitness operator Les Mills International.
The New Zealand-based firm offers consumers choreographed fitness classes, where they partake in high intensity interval training (HIIT) - that claims to burn up to 900 calories an hour - in an immersive 3D environment.
Les Mills Middle East boss Glen Stollery claims the classes’ futuristic appeal can motivate UAE residents to exercise.
“[People] know they can train in their building, follow a routine off a YouTube video or even run around the block. But the fact of the matter is, most don’t because they’re not motivated enough to do so…There’s something about exercising in a group, training with your friends with the latest music and a motivating coach that gets people excited about exercising,” he says.
While the UAE’s fitness industry is estimated at $380m, just six percent of the UAE population are registered members of a health club, according to a report by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), which showed penetration rates in developed countries such as the US at almost 20 percent.
Reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO) also claim the UAE’s obesity levels are stuck at twice the global average, with 70 percent of men and 67 percent of women aged 15 years and older considered overweight.
Stollery believes commercial clubs need to offer some differentiation to motivate city dwellers to work out.
“When these statistics are combined with the fact that the weather makes it almost impossible to exercise outside for several months of the year, you have a market that is ripe for the picking for savvy operators. The reality is that if you’re simply offering exercise equipment without a high-performing group exercise timetable, then you’ll likely struggle in this market,” he says.
Les Mills’ immersive fitness classes, which take place in GFX fitness studio in Business Bay and follow a pay-per-class model, have been operating at 80-100 percent capacity in Dubai.
The firm partners with club operators to provide them with content as opposed to operating the clubs itself, eliminating the price of premium real estate that haunts more traditional fitness centres. It plans to set up a total of ten partnerships in the UAE by the end of 2018.