As in many other countries around the world, rapid urbanization in South Africa has translated into radical lifestyle changes for many people. Among these are sudden changes in diets and levels of activity, which in turn have led to significant increases in the prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. While the standard establishment answer might be to “exercise”, this is hardly a practical or easy option for the majority of South Africans: Many who aspire to regular exercise and physical activities lack the financial resources to do so, as well as easy access to infrastructure such as gyms or other sports facilities.
However, societal changes that come with urban lives also produce new ways in which people look after their general health and well-being, and lead to the emergence of grass-roots initiatives such as MFHS in Langa, which started in 2018. MFHS provides local residents with a range of gym activities for different age categories. Twice a day, people can attend sessions of varying intensity that suit their needs and level of fitness. MFHS’s philosophy is to promote exercise and the practice of sports as part of a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. MFHS started by focusing on the twenty-something generation, but has now also drawn in people from older age groups. The organisation started by providing open-air sessions in Hamilton Naki square in Langa, but eventually moved to premises inside a building a few blocks away. At this stage, MFHS has a couple of instructors as well as a dietician.
MFHS is supported by the City of Cape Town, which owns the premises in which sessions take place. But the organisation is trying to develop a strategy to become self-sufficient and offer more advanced services on a commercial basis, including physiotherapy and biokinetics, to improve people’s wellbeing. The vision is to create a fully-fledged wellness centre to assist anyone in the community who wants to exercise and improve their wellbeing.