Dubai is a wonderful city to call home and there are several excellent reasons why people from all across the world flock to this emirate for at least some part of their lives. The UAE has an arid, tropical climate for about 8 months of the year from about March to October and during this time residents can enjoy uninterrupted sunshine, brilliant blue skies and plenty of outdoor activities that are ideal for this climate including camping, barbeques and picnics at one of Dubai’s several public parks.
The standard of living here is high and residents can enjoy the many benefits of tax-free living in a city which also boasts low crime rates.
However, for those coming from Western countries where comfortable temperatures are conducive to plenty of outdoor activity such as walking, hiking, climbing, rowing etc. the hotter summer months can provide a challenge as temperatures soar to over 50 degrees and humidity levels can touch 100%! Under such conditions, it is possible to still exercise and enjoy the outdoors, but taking precautions is essential to ensure that you remain fit and healthy.
Below are our top 8 health tips to ensure that expats living and working here take full advantage of Dubai’s warm weather in a manner that is safe for them and their families.
Beat the Heat
Living and working in temperatures that you are unaccustomed to can lead to serious health hazards. Heat-related illnesses occur when the body is unable to regulate its own temperature. Excessive physical activity or exposure to extreme temperatures may lead to mild symptoms such as muscle cramps or heat rashes or may lead to life-threatening conditions such as severe heat stroke or exhaustion.
Common sense is the best defense; you can still exercise indoors in air-conditioned gyms or if you must exercise outdoors do so very early in the morning or late in the evening when the heat is less pronounced. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your activity and try to stay out of the sun and in the shade for as long as you can during the day.
Stay updated with your health insurance
Under the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) scheme, all residents of Dubai are provided with basic health insurance including access to DHA clinics and hospital facilities.
However, this insurance is limited in the coverage it provides and many things are not included such as maternity coverage, dermatology related issues and in some cases dental coverage as well.
Most expats opt for personal insurance with a higher level of coverage, where they can chose to see a specialist without the recommendation of a general practitioner and can opt for inclusive coverage for a price. It is very important to read and check your health insurance coverage to understand what is included and what is not so that you can be prepared for an unforeseen emergency. Settling for sub-standard or inadequate coverage can prove to be financially disastrous in the event of an unforeseen health problem.
Keep handy all important telephone numbers such as that of your GP or specialist or any other health care provider whose services are regularly used. Find out about the hospitals closest to you and know the quickest way to get there.
For life-threatening emergencies the number to call is 999. This is the number for the government emergency ambulance service which takes you directly to the nearest public hospital. Appointments are not required in Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments and you can walk-in or arrive by ambulance and you will be assessed to determine the nature of the illness. However, wait times in public A&Es can be quite long, although you will be taken in immediately for serious illnesses. For minor ailments, it might be better to go to a private A&E.
Maintain a healthy eating and exercise schedule
While this is true for optimum fitness anywhere in the world, it is more so here in Dubai where the harsh weather conditions combined with a stressful work life can lead to eating quick meals on the go and forgoing exercise altogether.
Even though the heat can be crippling sometimes, it is not an excuse for omitting exercise. During the summer months, particularly from May to August, when the heat is scorching, it becomes even more important to eat and exercise sensibly. Needless to say, your meals should include plenty of natural fluids, such as fresh juices, cold soups and water. Avoid reaching for those sugary drinks and definitely skip the afternoon alcohol, as heat combined with too much alcohol can lead to severe dehydration.
Eat small meals 4-5 times a day and include plenty of fresh, lightly-cooked vegetables and fruits in your diet. There are easy on-the-move meals for when you are rushed which can include a cold pasta or chicken salad, a fruit salad or a smoothie.
For those who need additional help in planning their meals, there are several meal delivery services that focus on healthy eating and will deliver nutritious food right to your doorstep.
For exercising during these months, even if it is too hot outside, a simple home routine of half-hour of exercising everyday can be adequate to maintain your fitness. A single kettle bell may be all you need for a fantastic, full-body workout as it works all your core muscles, glutes and hamstrings. The level of difficulty can be adjusted to individual fitness levels, making it a very versatile exercise tool. Beware that there are no quick-fixes to long-term health other than proper eating and exercise.
Use a good sunscreen
The effects of the harsh UAE sun can be devastating to skin, irrespective of tone and color. Excessive exposure to the sun can speed up aging, cause skin rashes and burning and may lead to skin cancer. It is, therefore, important to use a good, broad-spectrum sunscreen and try to stay in the shade whenever you can, particularly during those steamy hot summer days.
There are many different types of sun-screens; get your sun-screen facts right and find out which product is best for your personal use based on daily routine and period of exposure.
Indulge in a massage once in a while
In a fast-paced environment such as Dubai, stress is an automatic by-product of the constant strive for perfection. If you always thought getting a massage is just pure indulgence, think again.
Massage therapy has been clinically proven as an effective complimentary treatment for a wide variety of medical and conditions. Dubai is a haven for massage therapy and there are many qualified massage parlors all across the emirate. Time Out Dubai lists 15 of the best massages found right here in Dubai.
The benefits of meditation are just too great to ignore. Its greatest benefit is stress reduction; meditation causes the body to reduce production of stress related chemicals while increasing production of mood enhancing chemicals in the body, instantly giving the practitioner a positive outlook.
Meditation also improves overall health by strengthening the body’s immune system, reducing blood pressure and cholesterol and improving sleep patterns by calming the mind. There are many meditation classes in Dubai; however, meditation can be done from the comfort of your home with the guidance of informative websites such as The Guided Meditation Site.
Treat yourself to a wellness retreat
If you are striving to get healthy and stay fit in Dubai, but have no clue how to go about it, think about joining a wellness retreat.
The concept of health retreats in Dubai is relatively new, but these are a great way to escape the stress of fast paced life, to unwind, relax and recharge your batteries. Whether you are looking to get some health tips, rejuvenate yourself, lose some weight or simply find a healthy life balance, retreats are a great way to help you get into the habit of eating well and exercising regularly.
There are now quite a few retreats that take place several times a year at different resorts across Dubai. Dubai-based entrepreneur, Rose Adams, launched the Transform Health Retreats because she found that every time she wanted to take a break and get away from the stress of daily life, she had to fly to Spain or Thailand. Similarly, Canadian based mum-of-four Bernadette Abraham launched the B Wellness Retreat, which is packed with nutritional talks, organic meals and cooking workshops and meditation.