How to start a gym business in the UAE?

Gym business in the UAE
December 25, 2023

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The UAE is a country where people have a busy lifestyle and are full of work commitments. However, people here want to stay healthy and look beautiful. To start a gym business in the UAE has become a profitable idea for entrepreneurs in 2024.

This is no surprise this country has the highest numbers of gym memberships in the Middle East. So, the rising trend of attaining an ideal body is turning into an obsession for the people. It is resulting in many entrepreneurs foraying into setting up a business in Dubai with a gym.

Many international fitness magnates and corporations are coming to the shores of the UAE. For instance, the American fitness giant Gold’s Gym houses its Asian headquarters in Dubai. The United Arab Emirates is attracting all of these foreign investors due to its impeccable policy changes.

Defining the gym business

What is a gym business?

A gymnasium, also known as a gym is a location for gymnastics, athletics, and other such services. Usually, it is equipped with barbells, weights, jumping boards, parallel bars, running areas, etc. In short, a gym is a place having the materials people require to pursuit a beautiful body and healthy physique.

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Requirements for running a gym business in UAE

Which are the requirements of running a gym business in UAE?

Here are the requirements to start a gym business in the UAE for emerging entrepreneurs these days.

Now, we briefly take a look at these requirements.

Right location

The gym should be located on the ground floor of the building. So, research the viability of your gym making it big. Keep your gym clean and hygienic as per the standards set by the Department of Health and Medical Services (DoHMS).

Together with a prime location, your gym should have latest exercise equipment. Members should only use the equipment for the exercises and body grooming activities. Otherwise, the authorities hold the right of revoking your gym license.

Qualified personnel

Hire only qualified personnel for your gym in Dubai. Moreover, ensure that your staff holds certifications by the DOHMS. Realize that expert trainers play a part in making your gym profitable.

Lighting and ventilation

The premises should be adequately ventilated and should be well-lit. Also, make sure you have sufficient exhaust fans and air conditioners that can handle the load of the entire facility. Keep the gym pleasant for use throughout the day (and in the night if you operate second shift).

Appropriate clothing

The staff, gym instructors, masseuse, trainers, and the patrons must all adhere to the gym dress code. Thus, escort off anyone not wearing appropriate clothing from the gym facility immediately. Because, members exercising in the mixed-gender gyms are better to have a decent training clothing.

Handling emergency situations

In case of any emergency situation, the gym have the capacity to handle it. Likewise, you must have a fully-functional first-aid kit ready at all times. After all, it helps in taking care of emergency situations.

No smoking

Dubai is a no-smoking zone. Accordingly, smoking is also banned indoors. So, you should post adequate signage that informs the patrons of the gym about your no smoking policy.

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Process for beginning a gym business in Dubai

What is the process of beginning a gym business in Dubai?

Here is a question that comes to the fore. What kind of business entity is most suitable for a gym? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best option for you.

In case, you feel that to start a gym business in Dubai is the enterprising venture of your dreams. Thus, you need to get authorization from the Department of Economic Development (DED) to get this show on the road. Here is the procedure to follow to start a gym business in the UAE.

  • Only people older than 21 years can apply for a gym license in Dubai
  • Acquire approval from the Juvenile and Sports Welfare Authority
  • Obtain the NOC from the Health Department
  • Receive go ahead from the Emirates Bodybuilding and Weightlifting Committee
  • Present a partnership memorandum and a signed lease to the designated authorities

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Getting a license for a gym

How to get a license for a gym in Dubai?

You need to get a license to open a gym business in Dubai. Gyms come under the category of the trade license. The requirements of a license to start a gym in the UAE are the following.

  • Submit photocopies of your passport and (visit or resident) visa
  • Get the NOC (no objection certificate) – for the preliminary approval and approval for the company trade name
  • Sign the MoA (memorandum of approval) – that you have drafted and agreed on its terms earlier with your UAE local sponsor
  • Finalize the location of your gym business in Dubai and sign the lease
  • Submit all the documents mentioned above with the DED and receive a receipt
  • Pay all the dues
  • Collect the issued gym business license

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Allowed activities in the gym

What are the permitted activities in the gym?

In the event, you are contemplating to start a gym business in the UAE. Then, you should keep in mind that the authorities regulate the activities a gymnasium can undertake. Members can only take part in the following activities in the gym.

  • Exercises or other forms of physical training for losing/gaining weight
  • Tai-chi, Yoga and other such meditative sports
  • Massages of various kinds that soothe and relax the body

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Prohibited activities in the gym

Which are the forbidden activities in the gym?

Authorities in the UAE strictly prohibit gyms from undertaking certain activities. So, make sure that your member don’t execute these on the premises of your gym. The following list of actions are forbidden by the authorities in the gym.

  • No medical or physiological treatment should be given for any kind of diseases. (rheumatism, arthritis, etc.)
  • Use of any equipment that is used for diagnoses such as Ultrasound or X-ray machines
  • Patrons with any kind of infectious disease should not be allowed in the gym facility
  • Under no circumstances, use the gym premises for staff accommodation
  • Do not allow noisy sports activities in the gym
  • Female staff should not be hired at men-only massage parlors and gyms
  • Personnel entering unnecessarily in female-only gyms, fitness, and wellness clubs will not be allowed
  • A qualified nutritionist will only prescribe pills, shakes, or other kinds of weight loss/gain prescription

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Qualifications of a personal fitness trainer in the UAE

What are the qualifications of a personal fitness trainer in the UAE?

In case, you are seriously considering to become a personal trainer in the United Arab Emirates. Then, you need to fulfill the specific criteria to get a permission to work as a gym trainer. You need at least a Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training — the entry-level certification for personal trainers in the UAE.

After completing training, you register as a professional personal trainer with the Register of Exercise Professionals UAE (REPs UAE). This authority regulates and lists all fitness professionals in the UAE (whether gym trainers or personal fitness coaches). Therefore, the membership of REPs is mandatory for all fitness professionals in the UAE, as per the Dubai Sports Council.

The holders of this Diploma can work in a gym with a client one-to-one. Or they an work as a free agent, i.e., become a freelance personal fitness trainer. Since the fitness sector in the UAE is widely popular, it has become highly competitive as well.

You have to hone your skills to build yourself into one of the finest and matchless fitness trainers out there. Merely being able is not enough, you need to be excellent at what you do. Thus, you have to polish your coaching capabilities to turn into a master fitness guru.

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Steps to setup a personal fitness training business in the UAE

Which are the steps to setup a personal fitness training business in the UAE?

Here are some key steps you need to follow to set up a personal training business in the UAE.

Setup a personal fitness training business
Setup a personal fitness training business

Going forward, we discuss these steps in detail.

Step 1: Apply for a requisite business license

To work as a fitness professional in the UAE, you need to apply for a suitable business license. In the event, you want to become a fitness trainer, this application process is two-fold. So, your license procedure depends on your selection of the gym location.

Step 2: Choose a suitable area for fitness gym

Normally, you pick Dubai mainland for the location of your gym. In the case of the Dubai mainland, you just need to obtain a DED Trade license. This license is easier to get and is far more affordable than the free zone alternatives in the longer run.

However, you may obtain an individual fitness training license in any free zone of Dubai. Then, you file for a work license from the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare in Dubai. A free zone permit enables you to offer personal fitness sessions inside your chosen free zone without any hiccup.

Step 3: File for a fitness trainer work permit

To get a work permit, you need to register with the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare. Subsequently, you have to enroll with the UAE Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). REPs is a self-governing civil register that approves the qualifications, abilities, and expertise of fitness and healthcare professionals in UAE.

The documents that the REPs authority demands the fitness trainers to submit are the following.

  • A duly filled application form
  • Certificate of REP qualification
  • A draft that outlines the type of fitness activity you wish to perform
  • Copies of your visa and passport

Step 4: Open your own gym studio

Once, you get the go-ahead from DED, you can negotiate a lease for your chosen building straight with the landlord. However, your gym space must accomodate the type of fitness services that you plan to provide. Because, this method can become complex, you can seek guidance from a UAE business setup consultant for smooth gym opening.

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Starting a gym business in the UAE

Is starting a gym business in the UAE a good idea?

Many foreigners are embracing the UAE as a residence due to its growth potential. Emirati nationals and expatriates are both conscious of their health and fitness needs. Therefore, taking the plunge to start a gym business in the UAE is the right idea.

Globally, the fitness industry is gaining widespread popularity and is thriving. Similarly, the fitness companies in the United Arab Emirates are growing in demand. So, it is no wonder gym businesses in the UAE and Dubai are increasing in numbers.

There is the rise of gym equipment, fitness apps, and wearable technologies (such as Fitbit, Apple Watch, etc.). Besides, around 1000 fitness outlets are operating in the UAE and are well spread across the entire country. The residents of the UAE possess a fondness for maintaining a healthy physique and overall fitness.

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Benefits of setting up a personal fitness training business in UAE

Which are the benefits of setting up a personal fitness training business in UAE?

These are the advantages of forming a personal fitness training business in the UAE.

Next, we briefly look upon the rewards of owning a personal fitness training business in the UAE.

No need for NOC from local sponsor

Authorities in the UAE don’t demand a no objection certificate (NOC) from local sponsors to issue a personal fitness trainer license. Thus, it empowers fitness trainers to build upon client sessions to start a gym business on the side. Once, they are ready to break away, they can go mainstream with a gym setup.

Low entry barriers for business

The limitations of entering in the UAE for a personal fitness trainer are very low to moderate. Furthermore, many UAE free zones that conduct sports services/events, issue a fitness work permit in a week or a fortnight. Similarly, fetching a gym business license in the Dubai mainland is also very swift and quick.

No audit necessary

There are no requirements for personal fitness trainers to audit their finances. Consequently, they don’t have to present their account books to the UAE government for auditing. Unlike many businesses in Dubai, individual fitness trainers are lucky here.

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Statistics about body fitness industry

What are some statistics about the body fitness industry?

These are some stats about the fitness market for grooming healthy body.

  • Global health/fitness club market size is forecast to reach $125.23 billion by 2030 from $88.50 billion during in 2023 (CMI research).
  • The number of fitness/health clubs internationally was 205,000 in 2019. (Statista)
  • Worldwide health/fitness club industry drove revenue of $96.7 billion in 2019 (Statista) and $91.77 billion in 2018 (Future of Fitness).
  • The count of fitness club members universally were 184.61 million in 2019. (Statista)
  • Regions with most number of members of health/fitness clubs through 2019 were North America (70.36 million), and Europe (64.76 million).
  • Fitness club memberships in Asia-Pacific (22.48 million) and Latin America (20.81 million) in 2019 show growth potential.
  • Middle East & North Africa (3.92 million members), and Southern Africa (2.26 million members) are emerging markets for fitness clubs.
  • Prosperous countries like the USA and UK have 15-20% fitness penetration rates in the population.
  • The global fitness equipment market was valued at a staggering AED 45 billion in 2021.
  • Revenues in the health and fitness sector of the UAE were worth AED 3 billion in 2022.
  • UAE’s fitness industry revenue will hit $600 million by 2025 at a 10.9% CAGR (Ken Research).
  • Fitness centers in UAE will increase to 1130+ by 2027 from 930+ in 2022 at a 4% CAGR (Ken Research).
  • A study found 25% of the the MENA region population spends 3-5 hours on working out every week. (IHRSA)
  • Only 7% of the population of UAE have gym memberships, meaning there is a potential for fitness trainers to grasp.
  • Surveys disclose 67% of UAE residents are prioritizing mental health and stress reduction in the wellness routines.
  • UAE having over 14,000 active golfers indicates that people here are embracing physical sports, recreational activities, and exercises.
  • The busy lifestyle of Dubai and the UAE is turning people to fitness exercises to fight obesity and health problems.

Comparison: Differences between Dubai mainland and free zone to setup new business


After fetching a license, you are ready to start a gym business. So, now you can legally conduct all the activities of a gym business in Dubai. Besides, running a gym business in the UAE requires extensive planning and foresight.

At times, it can become difficult and tiring for newcomers in the health or body care sector. Hence, new entrepreneurs can find it better to take advice from the business setup consultants. So, with years of professional experience, KWS Middle East can guide you better in the business setup process.

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