Russia is pulling out all the stops for the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics, but they’ve now taken it to another level. Apparently, having fit athletes to represent the country isn’t enough. In order to encourage Russian citizens to get in better shape, the government has come up with an unusual incentive: commuters in Moscow will receive a free subway ticket, which costs 30 rubles or $0.92 USD, if they can perform 30 air squats in front of special automated transit machines that can tell if you’re cheating.
I think this is ingenious. Why not reward people for demonstrating basic, functional physical health? Moscow might lose out on some subway fares, but anyone who can do 30 squats properly in a row is probably going to be less of a burden on Russia’s state-funded health care system than a person who can’t. A proper squat – weight on the heels, knees tracking over the toes, back straight – has many benefits. It’s a “compound movement” that exercises multiple muscles at the same time. It builds core strength, mobility, flexibility, and cardiovascular capacity. “Crank out a set of 25 air squats and see if that gets your heart beating,” challenges the author of an article called “Why Squat?” Or try 30, you lucky Muscovites, and feel those glutes burn!
The squat machines are simple, smart, and fun. They work the body, wake up the mind, and possibly tickle the soul, if you’re up for a good laugh in the process. It would be great if other international cities followed Russia’s example and installed squat-detecting machines as part of their public transit systems because any way of working physical activity into one’s daily schedule is a smart idea.