Cemetery workouts help Zimbabwe township residents feel alive

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HARARE, Nov 30 (Reuters) - It is early morning at a cemetery in Zimbabwe's Warren Park, a few miles west of central Harare, and 19-year-old Lesly Madubeko is drenched in sweat from an hour-long workout.

He wakes up at 4 a.m. to join dozens of exercise fanatics jogging and joining aerobics classes in what he admits is an unusual location to try to keep fit.

Many Zimbabweans are taking to working out after being cooped up during the COVID pandemic. But due to lack of facilities in the townships, residents have had to improvise and the leafy, multi-faith Warren Hills cemetery is proving a popular venue for some, if a bit worrying for others.

"People are uncomfortable about the graveyard, but I see nothing wrong with coming here. Our rural folk are always superstitious but we are not afraid," Madubeko tells Reuters.

A few paces from where Madubeko is training, footballer Tichaona Macheka, 19, is holding an aerobics class.

"We have more space and it is peaceful here. Training at home means noise for our neighbours," Macheka says.

"The Muslim section of the cemetery was gracious to let us train here and I am glad more people are joining the class."

Social work student Agnes Chigunde says the workouts have become part of her daily routine.

"I am not even afraid to walk here alone," she says. "I realised I was overweight, so I decided to come here so that I can do something about it. I am happy with the progress so far."

Reporting by Nyasha Chingono; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Nick Macfie

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