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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid