Traditions Prevent Women From Practicing Exercises

National Yemen

Asma al-Mohattwari

Sahem’s dream was not to be a minister or to have a position in the government. She didn’t care about the quota system neither think to be a leader. Her dream was only to join a sport club to lose weight. Habits, traditions, and misconceptions still prevent women from practicing their basic rights. Seham, a lady of 28 years old, still can’t make a decision in her choice, even if it is related to her health. After she finished college, she stayed at home and started to gain weight.

She knew that her family would never allow her to join any sport centers because they thought that it is shame for a girl to do exercises and take off her veil and garment in such place. “My father believes that people are taking photos and videos of girls to publish on websites,” Seham said. She thought of buying a running machine but they are expensive. She didn’t give up and started to download the latest sports applications that exist on her smart phone. She practiced sports through her phone for six months but she got bored being alone. Her last choice was to walk, and her father allowed her to be out for one hour every day. She was happy but quickly her delight disappeared. In her first hour of walking, she heard all kinds of flirting and harassment.

All the doors closed in front of her and she asked why her brother has the right to do whatever he wants. He joined a sport center, and spends most of his time outside while it is not allowed for her. “I want to have a body like the movie stars to marry the most handsome man,” Seham said jokingly.

Islam and religions advised people to practice sport and the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) jogged with his wife Aisha. But traditions and habits sometimes become stronger than religion. In Yemeni society, sports aren’t allowed for women. Women sometimes like to join sports clubs in enclosed places, but fears of people talking and looking prevent them.

There is another reason preventing women from joining the sport centers. Dhikra Ali says that the high price of subscription fees prevent women from attending, as well as a lack of time, especially after the return of children from school. “In Yemen, most of the sport centers are private and the public ones are unqualified.”

Despite her commitment to sport, Nada also practiced exercises at home and that helps her to save time and enabled her to exercise without having to return to the club.

Nada added that she is going to the club not only to lose weight but also to break her routine. “I feel myself so happy, relaxed and active.”

Rima, Sport Trainer in the Women’s Center, said that physical exercise is good for the mind, body and spirit, not only to lose weight. “Exercises keep your blood flowing smoothly, which decreases your risk of cardiovascular diseases. In fact, regular physical activity can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, depression, certain types of cancer, and arthritis.”

Rima advises that practicing exercises through the internet is somehow dangerous because there are parts of the human body that can be damaged when exercising wrong. “Its generality a lack of observance because some people have certain diseases such as arthritis and exercise without consulting a doctor or even be sure of the validity of the exercise.”

The woman’s body starts to lose its beauty after having children, and exercise has huge benefits for women.

Dr. Salwa al-Math’haji said that exercising after having a baby can improve physical and mental wellbeing; it helps restore muscle strength and firm up the body and makes the women less tired because it raises the energy level and improves a sense of wellbeing.

“Exercises also promote weight loss, improve your cardiovascular fitness and restore muscle strength, condition your abdominal muscles, improve your mood, relieve stress and help prevent postpartum depression.”

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