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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More