Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Rio - Exercise Made Easy

As someone who spends a great part of the day sitting, either working or writing, I'm always on the look-out for ways to incorporate exercise into my day. Usually it comes down to either going to the gym or, if I want outdoor exercise, walking, which might explain why I was so impressed with the outdoor gyms ( or Academia as they are known in Brazil) which are a common sight in Rio.

Often situated close to children's playgrounds,like this one in Santa Theresa, these outdoor gyms not only offer free work-out equipment but also allow parents of young children a chance to get some exercise of their own on a trip to the park. 

Others, like this one, are situated alongside the walking/jogging path around Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas so you can combine both your cardio and strength training in one session.  

Of course, it does help to have a climate where winter temperatures average around 20°C - I can see how the idea rather loses its appeal in temperatures much below 10-15°C. 

Interestingly, while you would think the availability of this free gym equipment would have a negative effect on the indoor gym industry in Brazil, recent statistics show this not to be the case, with Brazil only second to the US in terms of number of fitness centers. Part of the reason for this is that while 5 million paid gym members sounds impressive, it's only a mere 3% of the population overall and, of course, drawn mainly from higher income earners.

Brazilians are not a particularly healthy population according to the Brazilian Congress of Cardiology, with 40% of men and 50% of women not getting sufficient exercise, and obesity becoming an increasing problem. These free outdoor gyms are part of a billion dollar government initiative to try and change that trend.  

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