On the food front, there are a few camps teaching healthy lifestyle lessons
that children here need because, according to the 2011 MOH survey, only one in six children in the UAE is getting the 60 minutes of exercise a day theWorld Health Organisation recommends.
Too many calories and not enough exercise is a recipe for fat, which is why C-PiWeight Loss Camp is borrowing another, more hardcore solution from the US. Set up four years ago, the C-Pi Camp, aimed at obese children aged 11-17, is the Middle East’s only residential fitness and fat-busting bootcamp. As well as providing tailored diet/fitness plans to help kids shift the weight, it also educates boarders about lifelong weight control and healthy habits with a dedicated course in health science. In typical Dubai style, it also offers fabulous facilities – resort-like swimming pools, a ballet/yoga suite, an Olympic-size running track and a luxury spa.
Of course, we all know that prevention is better than cure, so weight loss camps should be seen as a last resort. A more proactive path for participation is one of the UAE’s many health- or fitness-focused camps.
On the food front first, there are a few camps teaching healthy lifestyle lessons. The School of Culinary and Finishing Arts at JLT is KHDAapproved and has community education as a key part of its mission. Its Mini Master Chef summer camp teaches kids aged four to seven about the benefits of a healthy diet.
Dubai’s Monarch Learning & Development Centre has also jumped on the obesity-busting bandwagon, with a summer camp combining team-building games with healthcare education. It teaches kids why exercise is important, and shows them how to be mindful about what they eat. It practises what it preaches too, dishing up healthy meals as part of the Dh700 week-long package. While culinary camps with a healthy message are still in the minority, there are scores of sports-dedicated camps. Many focus on a solo activity, with football, tennis, basketball and swimming camps the most common. And while some of these target kids with sport-specific skills, helping them hone their techniques and tactics (Act Sports Tennis Academy, MPAC Basketball Academy, IFA Sports Football Academy) many act as an introduction to the sport for kids with little experience or expertise.
Football Center’s Anouar says his aim with his football summer camp is to introduce kids to fitness via fun. This way, they’re more likely to enjoy it and so continue once summer is over. Zoe Da Silva operations manager of Urban Energy Fitness, agrees: “A sports summer camp is ideal as sport is introduced in a friendly, noncompetitive environment, where the impetus is on participation, not competition.”
Kids can so easily get ‘left behind’ in school sports activities, perhaps due to a bad experience or feeling that they’re not athletic material. “It’s important to acknowledge that not all kids will be great at sport and some may not enjoy it. The key is to find activities the child enjoys doing and feels they’re doing well, so their self-esteem is boosted,” says Zoe. Reintroducing them to physical exercise in a fun environment with fresh faces can save them from a life of lethargy.
Take Tom, for instance, a non-sporty child – “I couldn’t catch a ball and would get laughed at,” he admits. Tom suffered traumatic school sports day experiences and turned his back on fitness. But through a summer camp, he was introduced to a taster session of martial arts. He found that not only was he quite good at it, but he loved it. He’s now a blue belt in tae kwon do and works out five times a week.
For kids like Tom put off by sport in school, less-traditional sports camps could be just the ticket to fire up their fitness. And there are camps to appeal to all active appetites. There’s a gymnastics camp courtesy of Sporty Camps GymnastEx; horse riding at Hoofbeatz’s Equine Camp; and a focus on exciting Brazilian martial art at Level Up Skills’ Capoeira Camp. There’s also Ski Dubai’s five-day skiing camp for kids