Keep Houston Press Free

In Addition to Libraries, Let's Rally Around Public Gyms Too

Lifting weights is hard work, and not everyone has the space for a full set in their home.
Lifting weights is hard work, and not everyone has the space for a full set in their home.
Photo by Gabriel Porras

It’s always nice to see the Internet rally against a spectacularly dumb idea. Such was the case last weekend, when Panos Mourdoukoutas, writing on Forbes.com, suggested in a post that libraries were bad and could easily be replaced by Amazon. I would love to link you to said post, but alas, the backlash to it was so severe that Forbes pulled it from its site.

Not that you would have gained much from being able to read the post. Mourdoukoutas' arguments aren’t particularly well thought out, largely because mad that libraries cost him $500 a year in taxes and writing “I’d rather hoard my wealth than help my fellow man” isn’t going to get him the clicks he needs to sell his book.

Still, it’s always nice to be reminded that people still believe in the importance of libraries. They’re rad, and while my local neighborhood library is still down from flooding sustained during Hurricane Harvey, the silver lining has been that I’ve been visiting other libraries in the city and they’re all awesome. Working in their air-conditioned comfort has been great, and made me wonder why our taxes don’t go toward other free public buildings. Like public gyms.

We are lucky: the Houston Parks and Recreation Department operates a whole slew of community centers across the city that feature fitness options available for free or close to it. I had never heard of this until recently—and judging by the updates on their info page on the subject, keeping info up to date on them isn’t a top HPARD priority—but if you live in Houston and want to work on your strength or endurance, there are options. These indoor workout venues sound like a godsend as the temperature continues to flirt with triple digits.

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But not every community is so lucky, and to me, that seems like a shame. Make no mistake: I am not here to advocate for diet culture, nor am I saying that everyone everywhere needs to be a particular weight. However, there are people everywhere who want to work on their upper body strength, were told by their doctor to get more exercise, or just enjoy the social component of walking with a friend, and they’d like to do it without risking heat stroke. Yes, malls are available, but unless you’re getting up at 5:30 a.m., mall-walking can be kind of a hassle, and even then only works if your community has a mall to walk in the first place.

Free public indoor gyms aren’t exactly a necessity, but they’d definitely up the quality of life for many in our community. Commercial gyms are expensive, and not everyone has the finances or room for a treadmill. And encouraging our friends and neighbors to stay active isn’t the worst thing we can do as a community.

“Smells like socialism to me,” a few of you are probably thinking right about now, angry that I’d suggest that a small part of your taxes go to making sure people have a place to walk that won’t lead to sunburn and other bad times. You’re not wrong, of course, because while I’m not a socialist, I am in favor of communities providing good things to the people that live in them.

Libraries to further education. Roads to get us places more efficiently. I’d even support my taxes paying for healthcare for others in my community and free college tuitions, but I understand some of you find that sort of thing scary for some reason or other. These days are hot but some of us still need to work out. Air conditioning shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to do so.

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