A new mass transit initiative draws inspiration from high school gym class in the fight against a nationwide obesity epidemic.
There are plenty of reasons to take public mass transportation: It’s convenient, it’s cheap, it’s environmentally friendly. But for residents of one of the most crowded cities on earth, there’s another reason to take the municipal subway system: To get in shape.
Starting this past January, in an effort to fight a national obesity epidemic, Mexico City has been offering transportation passes to anyone willing to drop down and perform ten squats, just like in high school gym class. Interested commuters need simply approach one of thirty specially installed ticket dispensers situated across the city’s subway and bus stops, drop down, get up, and repeat nine more times. Each dispenser utilizes a motion sensor which measures the physical activity of the person doing the requisite squats in front of it, all while a digital display offers helpful tips for healthy living. Once a person completes their micro-workout, the device prints out a ticket which they can then exchange for a metro pass or a small pedometer.
This system is similar to one installed in Moscow, ahead of the 2013 Sochi Olympics. There, however, commuters were required to perform thirty, rather than ten, squats in order to be given free transportation passes.
image via (cc) flickr user 16:9clue
In Mexico, where over 30 percent of adults are considered obese, the government has been working for years to turn back the tides of nutritional and lifestyle-based health risks. That has included both levying high taxes on, and restricting advertisements for, sugary drinks (ironically, the physical fitness-based ticket dispensers were reportedly donated by Mexican beverage company FEMSA, one of the largest Coca-Cola distributors in the world). Explained Mexico City’s Health Secretary Armando Ahued: “We are calling for people to start moving, the best vaccine for obesity is called exercise and a lifestyle change.”
In addition to keeping the populous fit, Mexico City’s initiative might also serve to reduce the massive healthcare costs that country’s government is expected to accrue should obesity rates continue along their current trajectory: Expenses are estimated to hit $12.5 billion by 2017.
The government will reportedly finance 50,000 free subway and bus tickets for the initiative, while private investments will fund an additional 25,000 passes, reports Quartz. After that, it’s unclear whether the squats-for-rides program will continue beyond those 75,000 passes. Still, the program has already helped raise the profile of Mexico City’s fight against obesity, and given thousands of commuters a compelling reason to get up, get down, and get riding on public mass transit.