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What Is Dakar’s Hottest Gym? The Beach

Men and boys work out on the beach in Dakar, Senegal.
Men and boys work out on the beach in Dakar, Senegal. Mel Bailey / NBC News

DAKAR, Senegal – Just before 7 a.m. and again at dusk, hundreds of Senegalese men take to the beach in this tropical capital city to work out.

Colorful swarms of men can be seen running, doing push-ups and digging in the sand, just seconds before jumping in the sea to cool off.

“I’m here every afternoon,” said law student Ousmane Baye. “I like to come and work out after class. There is not much to do in Senegal, and I can swim after.”

Baye is not alone. Locals enjoy working out on the beach so much that MBagnick Ndiaye, the Minister of Sports in Dakar, said volunteers from several of the city’s neighborhoods installed workout benches, pull up bars and exercise bikes along the beaches of the peninsula in 2013.

“I have noticed that the population is always conscious of the health benefits that stem from practicing sports. It is the reason why after a day of hard labor, we turn to sports to keep us in shape,” said Ndiaye.

Boys play on the beach in Dakar, Senegal.
Boys play on the beach in Dakar, Senegal. Mel Bailey / NBC News

The beach is mostly full of men – given the fact that Senegal is 94 percent Muslim – women working out in public is not part of the cultural norm.

The city hopes to encourage people to get active – not just for the health benefits, but to reduce delinquent activity, as well.

But for Mamadou Djaif, it’s as much about looking good as feeling good.

“Yeah! I work out every day! Every day! I want to look like those American boys on TV," Djaif, a wrestler training to go professional, said during his afternoon workout.

-- Mel Bailey