With their dirt-stained clothes and sweaty hands, young boys aged seven to nine hang from monkey bars and try to replicate the moves that Sukadev Karki and his team just completed on the same equipment. “Some of them can do it just as well as we do,” says Karki. “This is how we are trying to create an impact in the community.” Karki, a fitness coach at Gymkhana Muay Thai at Maharajgunj, is also the founder of Nepali Youth Fitness and Calisthenics (NYFC), an organization that promotes ‘calisthenics and street workout’ by providing free calisthenics and bar classes to local youths at Shanti Park, Boudha.
Calisthenics is a set of exercises done using only a person’s own bodyweight as the body mass itself provides resistance against gravity. It comprises of exercises like pull-ups, push-ups, muscle-ups, jump squats, dips, back lever and similar exercises that can be done without advanced equipment.
Setting up an outdoor calisthenics park is fairly cheap
The calisthenics routine is a compound exercise that engages more than one muscle at a time and, most importantly, engages your core. While one can go to the gym and work on a particular muscle and bodybuilding, calisthenics strengthens the body as well as improves flexibility, endurance and mobility. Also, calisthenics is the foundation workout for many sports.
At the moment, Shanti Park at Partitar is the only outdoor calisthenics park in Kathmandu that makes calisthenics accessible and affordable to all. Anyone, from any age group, can come to the park and get started without paying any money. “All you need to bring along is motivation,” says Karki. Youngsters between 16 and 19 are the most engaged age group in this park. “It has taught them discipline and engaged them so that they stay away from social problems,” adds Karki.
Karki, who himself started this form of exercise in a calisthenics park in the United Kingdom, says he sees a prospect for more calisthenics parks in Kathmandu. “Conventionally, people see gym as synonymous with fitness but with calisthenics parks people can get better results than gym, and for free. Unlike gyms, calisthenics are suitable for people of all age groups.”
Setting up an outdoor calisthenics park is fairly inexpensive. As it only requires steel beams and bar, the park can be set up in an area of 15-20 square meters with investment of as little as Rs 100,000.
Shanti Park at Partitar is the only outdoor calisthenics park in Kathmandu
This kind of a park has had a salubrious impact in the whole community, says Karki, who is also a resident of the Partitar community in Boudha. “You see the kids as young as 20 months come with their parents to exercise. The elderly of the community use the park for morning walk and light exercise. It has created a positive notion of fitness and improved people’s perception of staying healthy.”
“It is a series of things,” says Karki when asked about how it has helped improve people’s health. “When they get into calisthenics they automatically become conscious about their eating habits and inculcate a discipline. Thus they also stay away for social problems.”
Karki is working to set up more calisthenics park but says getting approval from the authorities has been a major hindrance. “We wanted to set up one at Narayan Chaur but getting an approval has been a hindrance. It seems that they do not see the health benefits or that they refuse to see the benefits of calisthenics promotion in our city.”
Karki says NYFC is open to any kind of help and support to promote calisthenics in Kathmandu.