Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 19:06 pm (KSA) 16:06 pm (GMT)

Saudi women rally against govt gym closures

The first women only gym was opened six years ago in Saudi Arabia
The first women only gym was opened six years ago in Saudi Arabia

A group of young Saudi women launched an online campaign called "Let her fatten up" to protest a government decision to shut down gyms that are not medically supervised, local press reported Monday.

The outcry comes following a decision by the Ministry of Municipalities and Local Affairs to close down all gyms that are not under the medical supervision of a hospital or a clinic, Saudi newspaper al-Madina reported.

Organizers of the campaign complained that the decision would have a negative impact on dozens of Saudi women, who said they have been left without an alternative as medically supervised gyms are too expensive.

Flocking to the gym

 They (women) wanted to stay in shape and release the stress they have at home 
Personal trainer

Since the first women-only gym opened in Saudi six years ago, women have been flocking to the gym due to increasing awareness of the benefits of exercise and the dangers of obesity, a personal trainer at one of the gyms said.

"They wanted to stay in shape and release the stress they have at home," she said. "Plus, they made friends in a safe environment."

On devotee, Jamila, has been using the gym for a year and half and sees no alternative now.

"Walking in public places is hard," she said. "There's a lot of harassment."

She added that besides the expensive fees of a medical gym, there are no gyms near her house.

 Walking in public places is hard. There's a lot of harassment 

Sara Abdullah wonders why men are allowed to work out in gyms that are not supervised by a medical institution and women are not.

"Women have the same needs," she told the paper. "They even need it more because of pregnancy and labor and other sources of stress they cannot release anywhere else."

Maha said although she has equipment at home, she prefers the gym because "at home, there's no encouragement and no trainer to guide me," she told the paper, adding "I lost 21 kilograms (46 pounds) in six months."


The deputy media director of Jeddah Municipality said permits for medical gyms are issued by the Ministry of Health while permits for other gyms are issued by the General Presidency of Youth Welfare.

"Based on the approvals of these bodies, the municipality gives it permit," Ahmed al-Ghamdi said.

Ghamdi pointed out that the municipality is performing its duty as its closes down gyms that have permits from neither of the two authorities.

Ghamdi added that the women's section at the municipality is in charge of monitoring all places related to women's activities like workshops and health clubs.

(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)

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