Updated 30 October 2015

Outdoor gyms booming in SA

They're eco-friendly and they’re free. Outdoor gyms are popping up all over South Africa. Here’s what you need to know about them.

In a country where lifestyle diseases are a growing concern, access to a park with free exercise equipment seems almost too good to be true.

Green outdoor gyms were first introduced to South Africa in 2008 with the intention of encouraging exercise and a healthier lifestyle in communities where people are generally unable to afford commercial gyms or personal trainers.
The first gym was installed at the Petrus Molefe Park in Soweto, and since then more than 90 parks have been installed in Gauteng alone.
Tim Hogins, Managing Director of Green Outdoor Gyms, says the response so far has been very positive. Not only are communities making use of the equipment, but the fact that the gyms are eco-friendly means they also don’t cost anything to run.

“The gym equipment uses no electricity, which means that the energy that would have been used to operate treadmills and bikes can now be channelled where there is a greater need,” says Hogins.
Where it all started

Currently there are 55 eco-gyms across the country, and a few in other parts of Africa. The intention, says Hogins, is to have one in every township in the country.

“My personal aim is to have at least 2 000 eco-gyms set up – all freely accessible to every member of the public.”

So how does one go about getting one installed in your area? According to Hogins you should contact your local municipality, who will then put in a request, after which it will go through a tender process.

Variety is key

Just like the diversity that defines South Africa’s many different communities, the eco gyms are all different too. Currently there are eight different ranges, catering for everyone from kids to the elderly, and even the disabled.

The equipment is relatively easy to use and has been safety tested by among others officials from the Joburg City parks Department. Each piece of equipment also has graphic step-by-step instructions.

City officials are fast catching on to how this form of free exercise not only makes for a healthier community but also one that is more close-knit – a place where different community members can interact with each other.  

Read this article on Cape Calisthenics, a group of young men who regularly use the Sea Point outdoor gym – and train anyone who is interested for free. This is one example of how the ‘free exercise’ that these gyms offer is enhancing relationships within communities while keeping residents active and encouraging a healthier lifestyle.

For more information on outdoor gyms visit Green Outdoor Gyms.

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