Exercising in and in Tune with Nature: The Eco-Gym Story

October 6, 2023
Photo: Branko Kozlina

The idea to to turn driftwood into open-air gyms is one of the 16 innovative solutions to accelerate the green transition of the economy and society that were awarded European Union financial support within the ‘EU for Green Agenda in Serbia’ initiative.

The idea of the eco-gym, where PE teacher Marko Ćirić combined his love for sports and a deep-seated dedication to preserving the environment, came in the height of isolation due to the Corona virus pandemic. The result is not only a unique venue for recreation, but a brand new concept of outdoor exercise that raises environmental awareness in patrons.

"When the water level is high, there is a lot of flotsam and driftwood in the river, and it piles it along the banks. I often go to the Sava where I have a boat, and I regularly set up river cleaning drives on that section. On the other hand, as a coach I wanted to utilise my sports knowledge and experience to make something that will equally benefit gym-goers and the well-being of our planet", Marko Ćirić said.

Marko designed and made 12 exercising devices in cooperation with the Youth Entrepreneurship Advancement Centre. The Eco-Gym is intended for all ages, equally for recreational and professional athletes, since each of the pieces of equipment can be weighted with up to 50 kgs. In addition, each of the machines has a log next to it, providing images and descriptions of exercises that can be performed on it.

Photo: Branko Kozlina

The development of this open air gym is a highly complex process and takes up to three months. Nothing is wasted, since mulch wood shavings originating from the gym machine production process are used to line the grounds. Utilisation of driftwood from the river helps conserves the natural wood resources and raises environmental awareness on the importance of clean rivers.

– When we find a place with lots of driftwood, we set up a cleaning drive, and that requires several boats and volunteers. Once the recovered driftwood is sorted, it is transported to the drying kiln. This is followed by wood processing, production of gym machine segments, and grinding into mulch. Once manufactured, every gym machine is coated with environmentally friendly wax – the brains behind the eco-gym concepts explains.

The benefits of this exercise facility reaches far beyond mere recreation. Unline typical (mechanical) open-air gyms, Eco-gym equipment targets a broader array of broader muscle clusters – which in turn renders exercise more comprehensive, and practising on wooden devices is an entirely different, more amenable experience.

"Just cleaning the river banks and reducing the waste thre affects people’s awareness that waste can also be a resource to make something beneficial for the community. Moreover, cleaning the banks also reduces populations of insects, snakes, and rodents that use that environment as a breeding ground", Marko Ćirić concludes.

Photo: Branko Kozlina

The first eco-gym in Serbia was open on the Vršac town lake in late June this year, and its author announced plans to manufacture creative playgrounds for children and dog parks from the same recovered material.

The new Challenge for Innovative Solutions for the Green Transition was announced in February this year and will remain open until the end of 2026, with the goal of supporting innovative solutions in all five areas of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans.

The ‘EU for Green Agenda in Serbia’ project, technically and financially supported by the European Union and implemented – in partnership with the Ministry of Environmental Protection – by UNDP, in cooperation with the Embassy of Sweden and the European Investment Bank (EIB), with additional funding provided by Governments of Sweden, Switzerland, and Serbia.