The UAE has seen exponential growth in the health and fitness industry over the last few years and it shows no sign of slowing down. We asked a woman who is always ahead of the curve – personal trainer, nutrition coach and fitness journalist, Devinder Bains – to talk us through the big health and fitness trends for 2020: all the new classes, gadgets and foods that we’ll be loving as we enter the new decade.
Breathing rate measurement
We all know about monitoring our heart rates during exercise, whether it’s your brand-new activity tracker or the old faithful heart rate monitor on the treadmill. But did you know the more accurate way of measuring workout effort is actually through breath rate? Up until now, this has only been possible through training sessions in a lab, but get ready to go it alone with Frontier X. The latest wearable (this time, on your chest) device can assess effort and training load, as well as heart health, based on your breathing rate. The device, which measures the number of breaths you take per minute, is designed to buzz when you need to back off a little. And it gives a double buzz when you’re entering a cardiac strain zone, which happens when the heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen. Backed by the British marathon legend Paula Radcliffe, the Frontier X has just hit the market in the US, will launch in the UK in January, followed by global sales and soon, the UAE. Expect to pay around Dh1,800 to Dh2,000.
Another African super grain
There’s been a rising interest in African cuisine throughout the UAE with the opening of a number of restaurants, including Gbemi’s Kitchen in JLT, Dubai this year. But now the focus is turning to the health benefits of foods from the region, according to a Whole Foods’ report on food trends for 2020. Grains such as teff, millet and moringa have been getting some coverage already but the buzz food for the new decade is an unassuming super grain known as fonio.
“Growing up, my mum always used to make us eat a porridge she made from fonio, and I remember I used to hate it because I was such a picky eater,” says Gbemi Giwa, who is also founder of African food service Catfish. “Now, fonio is a staple in my kitchen. Apart from the fact that it’s naturally gluten-free, it’s a great source of energy, high in iron and works as a great addition to warm bowls or salads. You can also have it in a porridge with mashed banana and creamy cashew butter. Its fine texture makes its super palatable.” Want to cook it at home? A variety of brands are available from desertcart.ae.
Our interest in fitness is definitely on the rise but we’re not getting any less busy, which means it’s still an effort to fit in our favourite workouts. This is why one of the big health and fitness trends for 2020 will see more ‘express workouts’ being added to the schedules of gyms and fitness clubs. Here in the UAE, there’s the popularity of F45 workouts in Dubai and as of 2019, Abu Dhabi. Fitness First has added 45-minute Express versions of their classes to timetables across the UAE, as well as 30-minute ‘sprint’ sessions. Platform Studios have introduced their Cycle 30 class, while personal training company Fit Squad DXB have introduced 45-minute sessions across the Emirates.
“People are more aware than ever of the importance of staying fit and aren’t letting a lack of time get in the way,” explains Daniel Wells, the company’s co-founder. “In the past, clients would rigidly stick with the hour-long sessions we offer but more and more are opting for our intense 45-minute sessions, working hard in HIIT, boxing and sprint sessions to still get great results.”
Self sleep analysis
The importance of getting a good night’s sleep has been making headlines for a couple of years, but the sleep tracker gadget trend is just taking off. Experts believe what you’re doing and feeling during the day is affecting your sleep and vice versa and some of these trackers can even advise on what exercise and lifestyle decisions to make to improve your sleep.
“Relative to the rest of the ‘sleep tracker’ market, the Oura ring gives the most comprehensive analysis of sleep metrics,” explains Dr Nasr Al-Jafari. “Telling you not only how long you slept for, but how restorative your sleep has been.”
The Oura ring not only looks good and is easy to wear, it also monitors heart rate, breathing rate, activity levels and heart rate variability, which indicates stress level. This culminates in a ‘Readiness Score’. Dr Nasr, who can help monitor your sleep patterns using the Oura ring at the DNA Health and Wellness Center in Dubai, says: “Based on the Readiness Score, you can choose to do yoga or an easy walk in the sunshine that day, rather than a hard-charging CrossFit workout or a high-intensity interval training workout, which may otherwise have been detrimental.”
More virtual workouts
From wearable tech to online coaching apps and virtual classes, your workout is definitely going digital in 2020. Peloton has been the word on everyone’s lips when it comes to virtual classes and not just for their recent viral “Peloton wife” advert. Their spin-style bikes and luxury treadmills come with monthly subscriptions for on-demand and live workouts which allow you to watch instructors on the screens of the equipment – live or recorded – and take part from the comfort of your own home.
New for 2020 will be the brand’s third addition to its hardware, a rowing machine, and its plan for global expansion beyond the US, Canada and the UK. Germany is first up for orders, with more European locations to follow. Although not being delivered to UAE addresses just yet, Peloton is a favourite among Emiratis abroad, who have been buying the bike and treadmill for their second homes in the UK. And it is available for purchase in the UAE, as long as you’re happy to arrange the shipping yourself.
Looking for something with even more wow factor? Then check out Mirror: disguised in your home as a normal full-length mirror, once it switches on you’ll get on-demand and live virtual classes complete with music to do your workout to. And once you’re finished it can go back to being a mirror. American celebrity favourite trainer Tracy Anderson has already teamed up with the company to provide virtual workouts. Delivery and setup outside of the US is on the agenda for 2020.
Although the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a medically approved device that typically tracks blood sugar levels for people with diabetes, 2020 will see more and people who don’t have the disease using the devices. As recently demonstrated on Instagram by Dave Asprey, founder of The Bulletproof Diet empire, the CGM patch has a tiny needle that probes the inside of the arm or abdomen, and a sensor that tracks changes to blood sugar in real-time. The data is then sent to a smartphone via Bluetooth.
“I have a large cohort of non-diabetic patients whom we track for overall health benefits,” says Dr. Nasr Al-Jafari. “A healthy person wearing a diabetes device may seem odd, but in the quantified-self movement, it makes sense to track blood sugar, especially given all the risks associated with fluctuations in glucose levels and raised insulin levels, and their implications for the development of diabetes, heart disease, dementia, cancer and obesity.”
People are often surprised at how their blood sugars are affected, particularly by food they may have perceived as healthy, explains the doctor.
“CGMs are also very powerful at tangibly demonstrating how other lifestyle factors – sleep deprivation, stress, exercise – all affect blood sugars. Often just one night’s poor sleep, or an argument, is enough to put someone in to pre-diabetic or even diabetic range.”
Free movement in Dubai
Get out of the habit of working the same muscles, in the same way, day in and day out, as 2020 is all about free movement. In the UAE, check out one of the amazing SOMA culture workshops to shake off the rigid stiffness of your regular workout. The brainchild of Dubai-based couple Pav and Kris, who have over 30-years of choreography, competitive sports, performing arts, osteopath and naturopath experience between them, SOMA embodies all the rich positivity that movement can bring to the mind and body.
“We see much of physical training, whether its athletic performance, strength and conditioning or various other body practices, as often too predictable,” explains co-founder Kris Rai. “It lacks spontaneity and relevance. The aim of our physical practice is to teach and develop the understanding and application of human structure and form in relation to itself, others and space.”
Leave your inhibitions at home as you’ll flow through almost dance-like, unpredictable movements, freely using the whole body without restriction.
Devinder Bains is journalist of 20 years, working as a writer and editor on some of the biggest national magazines, newspapers and online publications in the UK and the Middle East. She specialises in women’s empowerment, fashion, race, culture and travel, and as a qualified personal trainer and nutrition coach, she is an expert in health and fitness. She splits her time between freelance writing and running Fit Squad DXB – Dubai’s largest personal training and wellness company.