For people here looking for things to do to keep healthy, there are plenty of opportunities. Everything seems to travel by word-of mouth, but once you get in the loop, there's no end to the activities available to someone.
Early on, I was introduced to someone who lives in my building who goes on weekly bike rides on Friday mornings. He took me along and through him I met some people who also swim on Saturday mornings. While I've since abandoned the Saturday swims (due to hating cool water and not wanting to get up early both my days off), I met a bunch of other people who are into fitness. I was introduced to the Abu Dhabi Triathlon Club which posts swimming, running and cycling events. There are weekly scheduled training session for all three things. Through the website forums, I found out about triathlons and running races, I wouldn't have otherwise known about. Basically if you're really interested, there's always something going on.
Also, though friends of friends, I've been invited on really amazing hikes and met even more people who are into doing road trips, camping and hiking. While I probably wouldn't have sought out those kind of activities, knowing a bunch of people that are into them and willing to help get me started makes me want to do them. There's an adventure relay race in Oman that I never would've considered but I got a few invitations to do. Unfortunately, it was short notice so it would've been hard to schedule a weekend trip without annoying my wife, but I can look to doing it next year.
Basically, with doing the kind of activities that I like, I've been able to make great networks and now know a lot of interesting people from all over the world. I'm surprised at all the people that I know that I'll just run into. Because the foreign community in Fukuoka was smaller, there wasn't as big a variety of things to do. I felt that it was a pretty tight community, but it seemed to center around work or nightlife. Here, because people have a much wider variety of jobs, work doesn't seem to be enough of a focal point.
Unfortunately, I rarely see Emiratis doing these sort of activities. The locals that are into this stuff are way into it, though. There's a guy that we go biking with who is really fit and well into riding. Unfortunately, he seems to be the exception. There's been a recent push to get Emiratis into sports. One of the guys I go cycling with works for some sporting office that is doing exactly that. From what he was telling me, it's an uphill battle.
My students are a pretty good indication of this. They're either stick thin or big marshmallows. The school has recently started requiring that students take a fitness class. I don't know if they have to take some sort of physical education class in their high school, but from how out of place and awkward they seem to be when I see them getting ready for their fitness class, I don't think they do. I feel a little sorry for them if that's the case because 18 years old is a little late to require that someone take a fitness class for the first time. It was like a group of middle schoolers on the first day of school realizing that they have P.E. uniforms and that they're going to have to run and exercise. I suppose that if the country wants to reduce the incidence of diabetes and obesity in the U.A.E., they have to start somewhere.