Outdoor gyms fight fat in SA

2012-04-05 15:32

Soweto - 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 countries.

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 90kg.

Affluent residents

Unlike Brazil, Britain, the US and some other countries, outdoor gyms in SA are not common, despite the pressing need to tackle the increasing obesity rates.

In 2011, 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, SA could soon overtake the US as the world's fattest nation. In 2007, the Medical Research Council found that 56% of adult women and 29% of adult men in SA were overweight or obese.

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

Health authorities 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 fitness levels.

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.

Immovable machines

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.

  • ErnaJacobs - 2012-04-05 15:53

    In our days it was called "Trimpark" . Not a new concept, but kudos to them for reviving it.

      Kala - 2012-04-05 16:42

      I wonder if some SAPS members will be joining? I can't see many of them being able to chase a criminal for much further that 10 yards at best.

      Marion - 2012-04-06 11:53

      This is not the equivalent of what we knew as a Trimpark. This is a proper outdoor gym with gym equipment. Well done to City Parks.

  • Brett - 2012-04-05 16:05

    At the rate that our farmers are being mowed down we wont be one of the worlds fattest countries for long.

  • lebogang.molefo - 2012-04-05 16:22

    I think I should join that gym

  • Marius Koen - 2012-04-05 16:32

    Cut down on KFC and pap and wors!

  • Mbuyi Mabuya Maphalala - 2012-04-05 16:46

    There we go again with these racist morons like Marius and them, your bitterness, arrogance and short sightness is blinding your judgement. You must go and jump with your racist tendencies like Malema.

  • Cassandra Olivier - 2012-04-05 17:05

    I hope there is one in Centurion

  • Gaby - 2012-04-05 17:07

    What a fantastic idea. Fit parents = fit kids. And we have the best weather in the world. Even as a gym member, I would go. Good for a sense of community too!

  • Fazel - 2012-04-05 18:48

    Well ,if you cant take people to the gym, take the gym to the people.

  • Coen - 2012-04-05 19:37

    Brett, do you insinuate that farmers are the fattest portion of our population? Or rather that the rest of SA will not be able to be so fat if their are less farmers to produce food? I do not believe the produce of our farmers are responsible for obesity; they produce FRESH and RAW food. Any dietician will inform us that processed food causes obesity - so the culprits should be the businesses who are changing fresh and raw product into processed foods

  • Sarit - 2012-04-12 11:43

    visit the first outdoor gym in SA. is in Leuppan park in Boksburg for more details pls visit our Facebook page or

  • Sarit - 2012-04-12 11:43

    visit the first outdoor gym in SA. is in Leuppan park in Boksburg for more details pls visit our Facebook page or

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