A gym craze is spreading in the upper classes of Senegalese society, attracting both women who want to look better and feel healthier, as well as men, who also use the gym as a social club.  VOA's Nico Colombant has more from Dakar.

One student in this aerobics class is businesswoman Awa Paye.

She says she comes to the gym to get back in shape, give her mental strength and good life balance, and also to avoid health problems.

She says she is not overweight, but that it is easy to get lazy and to eat too much, while sitting down at her desk for 12 hours a day.

She says Senegalese food is very oily, and that there are more and more cases of diabetes in Senegal, a fate she would like to avoid.

She says some of the exercises she does seem difficult, but that it is all worth it.

She says she used to play handball, and that after getting married, and having two difficult pregnancies, it was time to get back to regular exercise.

She says she wants to age well, and always please her husband, and to keep the attributes of a young woman.

Traditionally in Senegal, it has been larger women who have been considered the most attractive by men, but now most women say they are trying to stay slim.

More and more gyms and signs for gyms have been popping up along the main roads in Dakar, where gyms have become a common sight.  Gym instructors say surprisingly, there are almost as many women as men who are joining.  Dakar has long been known as one of the sportiest cities in all of Africa.

Men, like Samba Sall, who works for the airline company Air Senegal, also have similar goals.

"First of all for me, it is a matter of feeling better that I can be," he explained.  "It is not only a reason of health, but mainly to be at ease in my body, and of course, improving my health, avoiding diabetes, and other heart problems, they are also the other goals I want to reach."

He says he has lost five kilos since joining the gym. Sall sounds like a spokesman for working out.

"I feel very well, when I go back home I sleep much better than before. When I am tired at work, I recover more rapidly than before and of course, I feel very light," he added.  "My articulations, I do not have any more problems and it is a very, very good thing."

When he misses a workout, he says he also misses the camaraderie.

"I miss a lot, and I miss my friends here. So I have two goals to reach, first of all improving myself, and I meet many friends here," he said.  "It is a very good thing for me."

But with rising prices for basic goods, many gym goers say they are afraid they may soon be unable to renew their subscriptions which range from $7 a month in small gyms to hundreds of dollars a year for more expensive places. Those with salaries say they are having to take care of more and more friends and relatives without jobs, and not just of their own bodies.  Or they can go back to jogging, doing sit ups and push-ups along the beachfront here, where most other fitness-crazed Senegalese get their workout in for free.