Virus surge forces Mexico City gyms outdoors

Mexico City (AFP) –


From zumba classes in parking lots to pumping iron in parks -- Mexico City's gyms are moving outdoors after a surge in coronavirus cases forced the capital back into a partial lockdown.

For weeks, Claudia Hernandez had to make do with taking virtual dance classes in her home due to restrictions aimed at curbing the devastating spread of Covid-19.

But after the city authorities gave the green light to gyms to reopen outdoors this week she joined a socially distanced zumba workout under the sun in a lot where until a few days ago cars were parked.

She said it is a welcome change from dancing at home, which requires moving furniture to make room and finding the enthusiasm to exercise solo.

"You feel ridiculous alone, applauding, without the shouting or loud music," the 48-year-old said.

"It's not the same at home. Being with other people makes a big difference," she added.

Zumba instructor Jorge Alberto Saucedo said he feels that "people are breathing again" after being stuck indoors.

"They were despairing at home," he added.

Mexico has officially recorded around 1.7 million Covid-19 cases and more than 146,000 deaths -- the world's fourth-highest toll after the United States, Brazil and India.

The pandemic has led to more than a third of gyms and sports clubs closing permanently in the country of around 128 million.

In Mexico City alone, around 4,500 of the more than 12,800 premises registered with the Mexican Association of Gyms and Clubs have shut down, the group said.

Gym owners breathed a sigh of relief when in August they were allowed a limited reopening with reduced capacity.

But they were forced to shut again last month when the city authorities suspended non-essential activities in an effort to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed by a surge in infections.

And the partial reopening "won't help us much," said the association's vice president Oriol Cortes, urging the authorities to recognize that going to the gym is an essential activity.

Mexico has the world's highest obesity rate among children and the second-highest among adults, according to the government.

Officials say poor diets and health problems including hypertension and diabetes are partly to blame for the country's high Covid-19 death toll.

At the start of the pandemic, many Mexicans sought comfort in junk food, according to surveys.

"Depression either encourages you to eat or the exact opposite," said Hernandez, who gained six kilos during quarantine early in the pandemic.

Adina Neumann, who works at a fertility clinic, said exercise has kept her going during the crisis.

"You feel good, physically and mentally," the 35-year-old said.