Cities in general have always seemed to me to have the greatest number of athletically-minded folks. This could be due to the high price of food, or the fact that it’s necessary to walk in order to get everywhere, but the same definitely holds true for Santiago. In Santiago, though, it could be for very different reasons. Santiago and the surrounding area is an exercise friendly city, giving its residents endless possibilities of ways to exercise and stay active.
The city itself has many parks, which are always full of people doing different workouts with all sorts of equipment. It is common to walk by a park and see people with dumbbells, medicine balls or any portable gym equipment. In Providencia, the comuna that I live in, there is a road that closes down for part of the day on Sunday so that people can go and walk, run, bike or do whatever they want with the closed road. There is also a biking and running path all the way down one of the main roads that even has lights for after it gets dark.
There are also places throughout the city where you can rent bikes and return them to any of the other locations throughout the city. The system is similar to Citi bikes in New York City. Many people use them for transportation to get to places, but there are also many people who use them to workout or go for a leisurely bike ride.
It isn’t just within the city limits that there are opportunities to exercise. Santiago’s geographic location puts it near the Andes mountain range as well as other smaller mountains nearby. It would be completely possible to find a different hike to do every weekend here for a long time. They are of different levels of difficulty depending on whether you are a novice hiker or a seasoned vet. There are many stores where you can buy or rent equipment to assist you with hiking around the area.
A few weeks ago, I got to experience another aspect of staying active here in Santiago. I got the opportunity to attend my host father’s basketball game here in Chile. The league he plays in has an age requirement that you have to be older that 30 and for most of his team, they met this limit by a significant amount. A few weeks ago, the team went to participate in a tournament in the northern part of the country, where they will play teams from all over the country and hopefully take away a win. The previous year, the team he is currently on won, so although they were aiming for that again, they were happy just to place.
Watching the game reminds me of watching Little League games. The players are so into the sport, joking around with each other, arguing with the referee, playing the sport for the love of the game, not just because they have to or because they are making money. They are actually paying money to play this sport that they love. And after the intensity of the game, the two teams can shake hands and go get a drink together, laugh about the game and maybe talk a little crap about who will win the next game.
There are many leagues similar to this where the athletes participate with the purpose of staying active and having the opportunity to play a sport they love. I am sure many of these opportunities are present in many cities and towns throughout the world, but one of the first things that I noticed coming to Santiago was how you could tell everyone was active here by the sheer number of opportunities this city has for someone to stay active. Walking everywhere is a workout in itself but here there are so many more opportunities to stay active that there is a good fit for virtually everyone.