On a recent holiday in a tiny coastal town in southern Spain, I was walking along a promenade facing the Mediterranean Sea.  My goal was to take a leisurely stroll for a few miles just to take snapshots in my mind – walkers and joggers, the blue waters, sunbathers, swimmers, boaters, and the many restaurants along the promenade.

Being the health enthusiast that I am, I could not help but notice outdoor exercise equipment at different points along the stretch, usually in groups of five or six machines. Not the high-tech ones found in many gyms, but simple constructions that looked more like a children’s playground. They all were painted in bright yellow and red so that they could not be missed by the human eye. To me, the colors also served as a friendly reminder of the importance of exercise to maintain good health and reduce the risk of illness.

I was intrigued as joggers and walkers stopped along the way and did chin-ups, worked out on the elliptical and triceps machine, and tried their hand at sit-ups. There also were wheels that could be steered to the right and left to stretch the body.  There was even a simple version of a recumbent bike.  None of the bells and whistles to track heart rate and calorie burn, but it gave you a fine workout.  Children and adults alike used the exercise machines.

Since I enjoyed walking along the promenade, it became part of my daily ritual during my stay in Spain. As I watched people exercise every day and stopping to work out on the machines, several thoughts occurred to me.  First and foremost, what a wonderful way to engage people in traditionally indoor gym exercise.  There was no cost of yearly membership – just free machines available to anyone who wanted a mini or longer outdoor workout.  The exercise setting in and itself was salubrious as people were surrounded by trees, ocean, and the vastness of the blue sky. And just breathing in fresh air while working out!

The southern coast of Spain truly was an idyllic setting for outdoor exercise machines.  But I did not think that it did not have to preclude other towns and cities throughout the world.  I could picture them in places such as as San Francisco, San Diego, Miami Beach, Charleston, the Rockaway beaches, and the Jersey Shore.  As a matter of fact, I could picture them in any town or city within a park, or along a boardwalk or promenade.  Since I never saw these outdoor exercise machines before in the United States, I did some research and found that they are most popular in Europe and Asia, but that they are sprouting up in the warmer climates of the U.S. such as Florida and California, and in less temperate climates as well, including New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and Minnesota.

I hope that outdoor exercise zones continue to become a part of mainstream culture in many different countries throughout the world.  Even in climates such as my native city of New York that have people shivering on cold winter days, exercise machines would serve as a constant reminder of a health-conscious culture.  Except for the coldest of days, even a short jaunt on the machines can be valuable and keep us aware of the need to support good health.  Offering free outdoor exercise also will give people the opportunity to exercise where the cost of joining a gym is an issue.  Ultimately, the machines convey the message that we are a health-conscious society who need to work together to support health and wellness.


June Rousso