News / Africa

    Women Tackle Obesity in Dakar

    Fitness trainer Mickael Lafarge and one of his clients, Aissatou Sidime, before working out at a local gym in Dakar, Senegal, January
    Fitness trainer Mickael Lafarge and one of his clients, Aissatou Sidime, before working out at a local gym in Dakar, Senegal, January
    Amanda Fortier

    Losing weight is a common goal across much of the Western world. In developing countries, a majority of people still struggle to meet daily food needs. But in many African cities this trend is changing as obesity rates are rising, a result of more sedentary lifestyles and easier access to high-fat foods. Attitudes in Senegal, for instance, are changing about weight issues and fitness.

    Curves is Dakar’s only exclusively female fitness center. Just a few years ago this type of gym may easily have gone bankrupt for lack of clientele. But today, on any given morning, the room is packed with women from 22 to 70 years old who are pushing, twisting and jumping their way to better health. A majority of them are overweight or fighting obesity.

    Aissatou Sidime is a 27-year-old Guinean student who lives in Dakar. A year ago she decided it was time to get in shape and has been regularly exercising at least three times a week.

    Growing emphasis on health

    Aissatou said she decided to come primarily for physical reasons. She was too big, and needed something to do because she always felt tired. When you are young, she said, girls are more concerned about losing weight to be beautiful. But as they get older, and especially once married, most women are just trying to lose all the weight they put on after having children.

    The World Health Organization says there are an estimated 1 billion overweight people and 300 million obese adults worldwide. This is more than double the rate it was 30 years ago.

    In the United States and parts of Europe, recent studies have shown a leveling off of obesity rates among both adults and children. But in many developing regions, including Africa, this is simply not the case.

    The World Health Organization says obesity-related problems threaten about 115 million people in developing countries, and some researchers believe that by 2025, three quarters of the world’s obese population will be in developing countries.

    Fighting obesity

    In South Africa, more than half the female population is considered obese or overweight, and there are growing obesity problems in countries like Ghana and Lesotho.

    Biological anthropologist Enguerran Macia conducted the first study on obesity, and overweight men and women in Dakar.

    Obesity is measured through a Body Mass Index, or BMI, which divides a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in square meters. A number over 25 is considered overweight and over 30 obese.

    Macia said that while they found almost no women in Dakar between the ages of 20 and 25 who are obese, by 50 years old more than half of them are due to changes in the body due to age, marriage, pregnancy and lower activity.

    Macia noted that the more education a woman has, the less likely she is to be obese. That's the same as in Western countries. He said Dakar is transforming from a traditional society, in which people once needed to show their wealth through weight, to a modern society where people show their wealth through weight control.

    Learning to work out

    Curves fitness trainer Mickael Lafarge has been working as a coach for the past 12 years. Lafarge said that even during the time he has been working as a fitness trainer, he has noticed a change in concepts of beauty. He said before, women always thought "bigger was better." Now those same women, however, are having health problems. So now the trend is to be thin, because most men want slimmer women.

    But traditionally in Senegal, as in many other parts of West Africa, both men and women have valued a more voluptuous woman, even to the detriment of her health. Yet obesity can bring on a slew of chronic health problems, from hypertension and diabetes, to heart problems and arthritis.

    Macia said that one who is obese is five times more susceptible to hypertension, and that the poor may be the next group to suffer.

    Macia said poor people are not the ones exercising. And they also have little choice but to take advantage of the cheap, high-fat foods that are available. Macia predicted the weight increase eventually will trickle down to the poor, because they are the ones not aware of the health problems and risks associated with weight gain.

    While much of the Sahel region is preparing for yet another looming food crisis, with an expected 11 million people to be affected by food insecurity, discussing issues of obesity and overweight often are overlooked. In Senegal, more than half the population still does not eat the recommended number of calories every day, and a vast majority of these people live in the rural areas.

    According to Macia, though, this “double-burden” of overweight and underweight people living in the same country has to be addressed sooner or later. Macia said that in Dakar this means that illnesses like diabetes and hypertension now co-exist with endemic illnesses like malaria. He said it places too much burden on a country without the means to handle it.

    As part of a local initiative to help women fight obesity and get in shape, one of Senegal’s national TV stations, 2STV, is starting a weekday morning exercise program expected to launch this week.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.