Chhimi Dema 

“Let’s make the best use of the facilities and it is our responsibility to take care,” says a sign placed up by Thimphu Thromde in Babesa outdoor gym.

But the facility is in a dire state: a seat of leg press equipment has come off and lies on the ground, there are no handles on the shoulder press machine, rags hang from the bars, and the area is littered and damp.

“Youth misuse these facilities,” a resident says. “Two or three people climb on one-seater equipment.” Some equipment has rusted and fallen off, he adds.

As if to keep away health enthusiasts, shoulder press equipment in Changjiji Park is coiled up with barbed wire. Stationary bikes do not have seats. Cross country skiers are broken. The equipment wobbles when people sit on it.

“People should use these public facilities responsibly,” Yangden, a resident, says. “Some people kick the equipment and try to lift it.”

To promote a healthy lifestyle among people, the government established more than nine outdoor gym facilities across the city beginning in 2015. Many of these facilities are non-functional today.

It is almost 4pm and at the base of Sangaygang in Thimphu, Dechen Tshomo, sweating still from her brisk walk stands on the waist twister, chest and leg press at the outdoor gym facility. She is a regular visitor at the facility.

“Exercise is relaxing for the mind as well,” she says.  Busy twisting her hips, she says that the facilities help her stay fit. “Managing time while running a business is a challenge for me,” she says. “But I can avail these outdoor gym facilities at my convenience.”

Lifestyle diseases are common as people grow old, she says. “I want to ensure that I stay fit as I grow old.”

Like Dechen Tshomo, Suk Maya, a resident of Motithang, is also a regular visitor at the facility.

She says: “Gym membership is expensive, and they expect us to manage our time according to their schedule.”

“As a homemaker drawing her leisure hours is difficult,” Suk Maya says. 

According to the annual health bulletin 2021, non-communicable diseases (NCD) is a major public health concern in the country.

Hypertension and diabetes are the top NCD that have burdened the health system in the last four years.

Edited by Tshering Palden