No excuses: Ghanaians push exercise during pandemic

Ghanaian bodybuilder Samuel Kulbila has gained an international following from posting videos of workouts done with improvised equipment, like concrete weights. Photo by Stacey Knott/VOA

As Ghana‘s confirmed numbers of Covid-19 cases keep rising, the government is urging citizens to take their health seriously and do regular exercise. Although social distancing has made going to the gym a challenge, health experts say fancy equipment is not needed.

Gyms and personal trainers have switched to online exercise classes while a popular Ghanaian bodybuilder shows that you can exercise anywhere and with just about anything during the pandemic.

Since opening her gym in 1996, Pippa Pepera has seen a growing interest in health and fitness in Ghana.

Before Covid-19, at its peak, the gym would see 130 members a day. Now, many are staying away. But to help them keep fit, Pepera adjusted. She rents out equipment and encourages home workouts.

The gym also offers online Azonto aerobics, a dance style that originated in Ghana.

“Azonto is something the kids can do at home, mum can do, grandma, grandpa, everybody can get involved as a family event. We thought it would just be a fun, light way of getting people up, because we know again during C-19 a lot of people have become couch potatoes, sitting down, much less active,” Pepera said.

Up in a mountainous area outside the capital, bodybuilder and school teacher Samuel Kulbila is living proof that you don’t need expensive equipment to keep fit. He works out in backyard gyms, where he creates and uses repurposed and improvised gym equipment like cement weights.

This has earned him an international following through his social media posts. He tells followers that there is no excuse not to exercise, and the pandemic makes that even more important.

Kulbila is building his own outdoor gym in his backyard. He has also created a pandemic workout guide for his global followers to use while home.

“I started getting a lot of messages, DMs and emails, people telling me to help them because their gyms have been closed and they normally see me training in the backyard gyms and they believe I can fix something,” Kulbila said.

Before Covid-19 hit Ghana, fitness coach and mother of two Maabena Antwi held boot camps for women.

She has also moved her coaching online, working from her apartment in the outskirts of Accra. She’s found she enjoys working from home as she can spend more time with her kids.

“I’m home so I’m able to give them a little bit more attention and still work. Even though it’s not fetching as much, it’s still very lucrative and it’s good. So, I am looking at definitely keeping the online classes,” Antwi said.

These Ghanaian fitness coaches have made the best out of social distancing to promote exercise online.

But they also hope the motivation and encouragement from the government to stay fit will continue once the pandemic is over.

This article was first published by VOA.

Further reading

[May 2020] ‘Human beings are social animals’: Why restaurants and events will bounce back
[May 2020] Silver linings: Post-pandemic opportunities for African SMEs
[April 2020] From Chinese meat demand to rocketing citrus prices, Covid-19 not all bad news for South African food producers
[March 2020] Kenya-based investor sees opportunity in Covid-19 crisis
[March 2020] African entrepreneurs reveal how Covid-19 is impacting their businesses