Outdoor gyms fight fat in South Africa

April 5, 2012 by Sibongile Khumalo

Sweat drips down the face of a plump woman as she shuffles between exercise machines and pauses to greet passersby in Soweto's first outdoor gym, a new trend in South Africa, one of the world's fattest nations.

The facility, set in a park among tiny two-bedroom homes, has caught on with many Sowetans who are determined to lose the flab without signing expensive gym contracts.

Opened by the Johannesburg city council a month ago, the gym has seen the people of all ages pumping iron and swaying around in swing-like contraptions designed to target problem fat.

"Joining a gym has never ever crossed my mind. But this place has made things much easier for me because it is close to my house and free," said 37-year-old Chichi Mofokeng.

"I can simply walk here anytime. Doctors have repeatedly told me to lose weight and get healthy, so this is my chance," said the enthusiastic mother of two who weighs 90 kilograms (200 pounds).

Unlike Brazil, Britain, the United States and some other countries, outdoor gyms in South Africa are not common, despite the pressing need to tackle the increasing .

Last year the city of Cape Town unveiled its first outdoor gym on the beach front, catering for residents of affluent suburbs along the Atlantic seaboard. The city is considering to open more free gyms in other areas to promote physical wellness.

In some studies, South Africa could soon overtake the United States as the world's fattest nation. In 2007, the Medical Research Council found that 56 percent of and 29 percent of in South Africa were overweight or obese.

-- 'Our aim is to get people moving' --

Another study by a pharmaceutical company in 2010 revealed that 61 percent of the country's 50 million people were obese, trailing only the and Britain.

blame the easy access to unhealthy fast foods, with an assortment of outlets available in almost all public places, as well as a decline in overall .

Tim Hogin, managing director of Green Outdoor Gyms, the company that provided the eco-friendly gym equipment, said he decided to get involved after reading about the staggering obesity statistics in the country.

"I was shocked by the figures. Our aim is to get people moving, fit and healthy," said Hogin.

"I realised that not everyone could afford paying for a gym membership and that was the biggest excuse for not exercising," he added.

Hogin said his company plans to roll out 1,000 more gyms across the country in two years.

The immovable machines are designed to withstand the outdoor weather conditions and minor wear and tear.

Grouped together in the middle of the park, the machines could easily be mistaken for playground equipment, until they are seized by the ample-sized patrons.

"As you can see I am a bit big, so I want to get slim and healthy and encourage my children to get active. Working out is no longer reserved for the well-off, even people like us can now get fit," said Chewa Letsoale.

Soweto which has a 1.7 million population had no gymnasiums until Virgin Active, the chain owned by British mogul Richard Branson, opened its doors there last December.

Explore further: Experts: Gym gone but not forgotten? Parents want more physical activity at school for kids

Related Stories

Experts: Gym gone but not forgotten? Parents want more physical activity at school for kids

April 18, 2011
Childhood obesity affects 1 of every 6 kids in the United States, in part due to a lack of physical activity. Schools can play a key part in offering elementary-age kids lots of chances to be active—on the playground ...

Recommended for you

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.