Mexico City is somewhat renowned for experimenting with unconventional interventions to tackle certain social problems. In fact, it was former mayor Marcel Ebrard’s propensity for “challenging Mexico’s orthodoxy” that earned him the title of World Mayor in 2010.
Ever eager to keep the capital on the global radar, current mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera and his cabinet have attempted, in some ways, to appropriate Ebrard’s approach.
Obesity, however, has been a trenchant challenge for the government. In the past, officials have tried all sorts of incentives to encourage chilangos to slim down, from giving away pedometers and changing cops’ lunches, to installing open-air exercise stations and dispatching trainers to the city’s main avenue, Reforma, to lead exercise classes on Sundays, when the avenue closes to vehicular traffic for part of the day.
The latest effort to get chilangos moving was inaugurated on July 15, when the city’s Secretary of Health, Armando Ahued, performed 10 squats in his business suit in order to promote a new fat-busting campaign. Announcing the installation of health stations at nearly 20 MetroBus stations around the capital, Ahued explained to the media and curious onlookers that the city, in partnership with private businesses, including Santander Bank, will provide either a free Metro ride or a strip of condoms to transit users who perform 10 squats at one of the health stations, which are attended by Department of Health staff. If they prefer, the successful squatters can be gifted with a pedometer.
The stations perform another public health function, too; the staff at these sites are qualified to provide health check-ups. Ahued said that in a city where seven out of 10 adults are obese and health care affordability and access are a challenge, the check-ups are a necessary source of support and care for residents of the Mexican capital.
Of course, 10 squats won’t burn hundreds of calories, so the Department of Health has also announced that some existing interventions, including the open-air gyms, will expand.
The city plans to add 1,000 more “aire libre” gyms to its roster of 600 such spaces.