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Ray Algar reports on a gym that’s been built at Antarctica’s front door.

For this month’s Gymtopia story you will need your coat, because we’re off to Antarctica, the Earth’s southernmost continent and officially recognised as the coldest place on the planet: during 2010, a temperature of minus 94.7C (-135.8F) was recorded. This is an extraordinary project involving Megatlon – a leading Argentinian health club chain – alongside the Argentinian Air Force and scientists who were putting on weight as fast as the local elephant seals.

Good science, bad lifestyle

Marambio Base is a permanent year-round base founded by Argentina in 1969. Located on Marambio Island, Antarctica – which lies around 1,167km from the southern tip of Argentina – the base acts as a strategic hub for Antarctic scientific missions, as its runway can accommodate aircraft using conventional landing gear. For this reason it’s known as ‘Antarctica’s entrance door’, supporting over 100 intercontinental flights each year. Operated and maintained by the Argentinian Air Force, Marambio Base is home to 200 permanent crew and scientists undertaking a diverse range of geological and atmospheric experiments, with missions usually lasting a year. For those living in Antarctica, their lifestyle is tipped on its head. With less than three hours of daylight during the winter, and 120km/h winds, the tendency is to hunker down and ‘fuel-up’ in the 24-hour kitchen and ‘Casino’ – a recreation room complete with bar, smoking area, card and pool tables. Consequently, physical activity levels plummet, while bodyweight balloons.

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