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DUBAI: Healthcare professionals have long touted the benefits of regular exercise for promoting physical well-being, longevity and mental well-being, while reducing the burden of chronic disease on the healthcare industry.
Now, thanks to Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s economic reform agenda, young Saudis are willingly taking advantage of the opportunities and support of the state to start their own business ventures in the burgeoning fitness industry.
Many of these young people bring entirely new approaches to the concept of wellness – with a greater emphasis on mental health, socialization and creative pursuits, rather than the lonely and often hypermasculine experience of the traditional gymnasium sector.
Sarah Al-Turkistani, who was born and raised in the city of Taif, in the Kingdom’s southwestern Makkah province, saw a yawning gap in the market for fitness enthusiast women eager to get in on their own. fit but put off by the limited gym facilities.
A year after launching in the coastal city of Jeddah, her company, Loca Studios, has offered women a completely different fitness experience, where the routine of a regular workout becomes a social activity, involving music, dance, therapy. multisensory and even the chance to drink coffee with new friends.
Al-Turkistani told Arab News: âThrough exercise, people can actually heal their bodies from physical and emotional trauma. “
A graduate of the health profession, having studied at the College of Clinical Pharmacy in Jeddah, she takes a holistic approach to fitness, recognizing not only the physical benefits of weight loss and muscle growth, but also the mental benefits. some exercice.
What she also learned from her studies was an understanding of the limitations of pharmaceutical drugs in the treatment of disease. âIt usually helps you in one area but damages your body in another,â she said.
Instead, she has become a strong advocate for holistic lifestyle choices to improve and maintain overall health.
After graduation, Al-Turkistani began a stint in pharmaceutical chemical supply at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, but soon moved to Nahdi Pharmacy, where she established the marketing department of the business. It was here that she honed her business acumen and delved into the field of holistic health.
While at Nahdi Pharmacy, she became involved in a joint project with the Saudi Ministry of Health and the Joslin Diabetes Center in the United States to publish a study for the American Diabetes Association on the power of wellness. and a healthy diet in the treatment of diabetic patients.
âMy mission in life is to help people with solutions other than drugs. I was really inspired by the results of the study, and it allowed me to deepen my well-being, âAl-Turkistani added.
As World Diabetes Day approaches (November 14), healthcare professionals around the world are taking the opportunity to encourage the public to adopt a more balanced diet and exercise in moderate form of daily exercise to lose weight. weight.
While working with Nahdi Pharmacy, Al-Turkistani became a Certified Diabetes Educator, a period of study that brought her into the sports fitness industry. But the experience that really brought out her inner entrepreneur was her own fitness journey.
After unsuccessful attempts to join a gym to lose weight after pregnancy, Al-Turkistani signed up for an at-home Zumba class hosted by her friend and future business partner. âI loved it right away,â she says.
âI really liked dancing and losing weight without even feeling it. I was having so much fun. My entrepreneurial mind wondered why there was nothing like it (on a commercial scale) in Saudi Arabia because it really changed my life. That’s when it clicked.
And so, as the Kingdom began to relax its guardianship laws and began to encourage women and young people to enter the workplace and start their own businesses, Al-Turkistani established Loca Studios in a four-storey building. floors and 3,000 square meters in the heart of Jeddah.
Although the space is much larger than she expected, a brainstorming session with her silent partner came up with an even more ambitious plan, integrating fitness, art and music into a holistic community. .
The business is certainly experimental. It will soon welcome live jazz musicians to perform in the studio, while guests will participate in art classes, workouts, and coffee drinks.
âMusic is always a fun workout. We’ve had a few events where my sister played the oud in the background of a yoga class, and one that activates people’s senses by coordinating the colors of a room to the music. You activate your visual senses with the moving colors, so people don’t feel the struggle or the pain of actually training, âshe added.
The multisensory experience is further enhanced by the scent in every room, completely transforming the aesthetic of the gym and the allure of working out. âIt has an incredible effect on people,â Al-Turkistani said.
âPeople buy gym memberships, but they don’t go. It is very good for business but not good for guests. In our case, people pay for membership, and the faces I see, I see them every day, they don’t give up.
As Loca Studios celebrated its first anniversary, Al-Turkistani revealed that it plans to open a second branch in Riyadh before expanding throughout the Kingdom.
With 2,000 people currently subscribed to her website and around 300 clients having joined the studio in September alone, Al-Turkistani said she was proud of the gradual transformations underway in Saudi Arabia.
By revolutionizing the gym experience and expanding her business, she hoped to make a difference in a small but important way: 36% of Saudi women are classified as obese, resulting in chronic health problems that are straining. the country’s medical infrastructure.
âOur government is finally considering this seriously, because having so many sick people in hospitals affects the economy.
âThey also thought about it from a human perspective, and I’m really happy with that and Vision 2030. It made me even stronger as a businesswoman knowing that whatever I do, I I’m going to get the right support from the government and the whole country, âshe added.
Many young Saudi entrepreneurs want to make an impact in their community – especially in a way that improves quality of life through physical and mental well-being – efforts that are at the very heart of Kingdom transformation.
Al-Turkistani said, âWe now find a lot of Saudi trainers in the fitness industry and a lot of them are self-taught. They’re certified, which is amazing, and there’s a lot going on in the company now. “
Clinging to the wellness trend, Al-Turkistani plans to open a Loca Academy to train others who want to enter the fitness industry.
âI am certified to deliver a training program used by the US military on how to relax. There are only five Saudis trained in this so far, but I think it will change people’s lives.
âThe happiness that comes from the outside world – the dancing, the fun, the workouts – it’s all good, but people have to heal first. So, I am really proud that this is new in Saudi Arabia, âshe added.