“I’ve never been inside a real gym!” exclaims a little voice overcome with excitement. Judging from the look on the other boys’ faces this would be their first encounter too. They had come here expecting nothing but 67 minutes of intensive boot camp.
In a matter of seconds, the once quiet aerobics hall is now filled with the delighted faces of the children from Euxolweni Shelter, their chaperones and the dedicated Rhodes University Health Suite group fitness instructors.
“Are you ready? 5…6…7…8,” shouts the young voice of Sivuyisiwe Situngu, a group fitness instructor at the Health Suite. The music begins and the boys eagerly join in. For some, it appeared to be the first workout in what may have felt like forever. They energetically continue until heavy breathing and sweat become evident. After all, the key to gyming is sweating, right?
As the time goes on, some have even started dancing to the music and already forgotten that the session was intended to be intensive. Leg workouts, squats, cardio, bunny jumps and a few cheats in-between. Now there are smiles and laughter.
“Today I learned that exercising can be fun and by having fun I stay healthy too,” says Akeem Abdul, an eager participant. “I’m not used to practicing but today I feel fresh. I learned new workouts that I can do,” said Abdul.
In passing, an overseer from Euxolweni Shelter can be heard asking “Did you have fun? You see, exercising doesn’t always have to be strenuous, you can enjoy it too!”
“The whole reason for this was to show the children what we do in the Health Suite. We chose a group of boys because we felt it would be a much needed experience for them. A lot of kids do not have the opportunity to come to the gym,” said Situngu.
The aim of the intensive boot camp was to encourage young children to keep healthy from an early age and to show that exercising can be an enjoyable part of their everyday routine.
“Skipping for instance is supposed to be a game that everyone plays in the township but that can also be a form of workout,” said Situngu.
The instructors unanimously agreed that there is more to staying healthy than just exercising. Through the workout the children were able to laugh and to play and that in itself is healthy. “Health holistically involves a lot of things and part of that is working out, as much as having fun, socialising and maintaining mental health,” said Situngu.