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World Beat: Guatemala

Indoor cycling, kickboxing, boot camp, strength training, step classes, yoga and water fitness classes are all popular in Guatemala, a country with nearly 13 million people. Men especially enjoy kickboxing, indoor cycling, boot camp and yoga classes. Classes that use equipment such as the Body Bar, rubber bands and stability balls are also well liked. Since Guatemala has a tropical climate, popular activities outside of fitness facilities include triathlons, mountain biking, jogging, football, swimming and baseball.

The majority of individuals who exercise are between the ages of 25 and 40, and they tend to follow a regular exercise program. You’ll also find younger people (16-25 years of age) and athletes working out at fitness facilities. The number of seniors at fitness facilities is slowly starting to grow. There are only a few programs for seniors, while there are lots of kids’ programs and clubs. Health club membership isn’t considered expensive in Guatemala.

There are only a couple of really large fitness facilities. The biggest one has pools, racquetball facilities, weight rooms with free weights and machines, cardio equipment, sauna and massage rooms, a sporting goods store and a cafeteria. In addition to the most popular classes previously mentioned, other classes offered include karate, t’ai chi, kendo and dance. Physical evaluations are conducted through a medical department with a specialist in sports medicine and a nutritionist. Most personal training takes place in the client’s home, but personal training is starting to hit big in clubs and gyms too.

Most people exercise to remain in shape and look good, not necessarily for health reasons. People also exercise to socialize, to lose weight and to gain muscle mass and definition (especially important for the younger population). Fortunately, Guatemalans, especially seniors, are starting to become conscious of the need to exercise for health reasons.

Although there is no connection between the fitness industry and the medical community, doctors do refer certain at-risk populations, such as cardiac patients, seniors and obese individuals to fitness facilities. Doctors may also refer patients who are pregnant, have low-back pain or are rehabilitating from an injury. In general, doctors in Guatemala feel exercise is important to prevent illness and reduce obesity and stress. But because of the lack of communication between fitness and medical professionals, doctors are hesitant to refer patients to fitness facilities. Fitness professionals in Guatemala are eager to help at-risk populations and establish relationships with doctors, but because there aren’t many certification programs for fitness professionals and no programs at the university level, approaching doctors is difficult.

—Reported by Nadia Herrarte, master instructor and choreographer of the aerobics program at Exerzone Gym, the largest fitness facility in Guatemala. A 30-year veteran in the fitness industry, she is an international presenter and was Miss Fitness in 1998-99.


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