Abhiyan Aryal, a teenager from Dandagaun on the northern outskirts of Kathmandu, regularly walks 10 minutes to reach an open gym installed in his locality established by the local government, Tarakeshwar municipality. This has been his weekly routine since he has seen the open gym. Every Saturday, he and his brother go to the place, Peepal Danda, and exercise for about an hour.
“Around a month ago, I saw those gym equipment installed in the ground in front of my school compound,” Aryal narrates, “I then shared this with my brother and he also showed interest in it. Since then, we regularly go there to use the service of this free gym.”
There are many like Aryal whose daily routine has been changed as they are being benefitted after the establishment of such free outdoor gyms in different local units across the country. Simultaneously, videos of people gyming outdoors are going viral on social media platforms, mainly TikTok.
First initiated by the Bhaktapur Municipality in Nepal two years back, the open gym has become popular nowadays with many local governments hosting open gyms and many others willing to open one. Stakeholders think this is beneficial.
According to Sunil Prajapati, the mayor of Bhaktapur municipality, his government established 14 open gyms in order to ensure one of the basic rights of the public, the right to a healthy life, in 2019.
“We have spent around Rs 900,000 for the establishment of the open gyms in every ward. And, the response from the public has been very positive and overwhelming.”
Prajapati informs the condition of some equipment has been gradually degrading, but the concerned ward sports committee or every ward is looking forward to fixing this. As of now, all of the open gyms are closed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed to curb the infection.
In every ward of this ancient city east of Kathmandu, there are two open gyms. Apart from these, open gyms are established in the premises of Khwopa Engineering College and Khwopa College also. The mayor says he wants to establish such gyms in schools and other colleges inside the municipality.
Prajapati shares many local governments appreciated his initiative of establishing open gyms and further inquired about this so that they also can also establish in their locality.
Months after Bhaktapur established open gyms, the Nagarjun municipality in Kathmandu also opened such a facility, about one and a half years ago. Sundar KC, the ward 10 chairperson of the city, informs, “The open gym is opened near Salik Chok, Syuchatar, and is operated in the guardianship of the Tarakeshwar Youth Club. After the club approached the ward regarding its establishment, we agreed as the concept seemed very beneficial for the health of the public and then, the municipality allocated a budget for its establishment.”
The facility of the open gym is closed currently due to the Covid-19 pandemic in Syuchatar. However, during normal times, the open gym used to be filled with people, children, grown-ups, and the elderly people doing exercise and spending good times during mornings and evenings, informs KC.
Santosh Budhathoki, the president of the club, shares, “We were thinking about establishing an open gym, but could not find the supplier in Nepal. After searching for a while, we got to know about Green Walkers, a company that sells and installs gym equipment, and I was so intrigued by the idea. We contacted the company and brought one set of equipment and installed it.”
Suraj Giri, the general manager of the Green Walkers Pvt Ltd, informs, “Opening an open gym in Syuchatar was our first project. Since then, we have sent these products and installed this equipment in many local units inside and outside the valley.”
According to Giri, his company has set up open gyms in one place in Nagarjun (full set of 16 products), three places in Hetaunda (all half set of eight products), one place in Changunarayan municipality (half set), four places in Tarakeshwar municipality (all half set of eight products), Sundarijal (one full set), and Shankhapark (half set) among other places.
Meanwhile, Giri claims his company has been overwhelmed with the demand from many different places inside and outside the valley including Suryabinayak, and Kirtipur in Kathmandu, and Damak, Palpa, Lamjung, Butwal, and many others.
Balaram Sitaula, the coordinator of the Tarakeshwar Sports Committee of the municipality, informs his committee contacted Green Walkers after making a decision about the idea of establishing an open gym during one of its discussions and after visiting the outdoor gym of Syuchatar.
Sitaula states, “It has been around a month that we have established open gyms of half sets in four places of the municipality. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all the sports activities and competitions have been halted, hence we thought of utilising the budget this way that benefits all public.”
According to him, around Rs 3.9 million has been spent on this and people are really appreciating it. However, he mentions, “We have realised that there is the need for proper management of the gym equipment and the open gym itself, thus we are planning to fence and manage it properly.”
He further reports there has been a demand for opening more such gyms in other wards of the municipality as well.
On his part, Giri shares, “We aim to establish open gyms in all 753 local units of Nepal and expect the users’ community to utilise, preserve and manage the gym themselves.”