Sunday, December 16, 2012

Women and exercise

Yesterday, I held my first women-only aerobics class at our Youth Center. In my community (and in many others in Morocco) women do not seem to have access to enough exercise opportunities. Boys and young men play soccer morning and night everywhere you look, and while younger girls run around outside playing with friends, older girls and certainly married women seem to get very little exercise. I run several times a week and rarely do I see any females running or walking, and based on what other Peace Corps Volunteers have told me, in some communities it does not happen at all. There are several gyms in our community, but all are men-only, either by rule or in practice, as far as I can tell.

Now don't get me wrong, women work quite hard in the home - cooking, cleaning, taking care of the house and the family - but they don't have the opportunity to do cardiovascular exercise. The top reported cause of death in Morocco is coronary artery disease - with the most common risk factors including obesity and lack of exercise. And a recent study reported that 67% of chronic diseases in Morocco are due to unhealthy nutrition, lack of exercise, and smoking (though this affects mostly men as women seen smoking are, in many communities, presumed to be prostitutes, so few do), with only 20% of Moroccans exercising regularly and 40% not consuming adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables. In comparison, 50% of Americans report that they exercise regularly, and think about how much we hear about Americans' health problems!

So I think exercise and nutrition for women are both really important areas to which I can contribute during my time in Morocco (and hopefully I can discuss nutrition more in conjunction with the aerobics class). The reason I chose to make this a women-only class is simply to help women to feel comfortable. We have women-only gyms in the U.S., but I think even more so in Morocco, for many women to be willing to come to classes, they need privacy and a separate environment from men. For my first session, I had 7 girls and women show up, ranging in age from 16 to 35. It's great for a start, and hopefully in time that number will increase. The class went really well - all of my years doing aerobics classes at gyms paid off and everyone loved getting the chance to move around and listen to fun pop music. After the class was over, 3 of the girls stayed around and danced to the music for a while because they enjoyed it so much!

In case you are curious, the playlist from the class is below. I spent a LOT of time finding the latest "cool" music that Moroccans like to listen to, some American, some Moroccan, and some international. A lot of the songs are available on YouTube if you don’t recognize some and want to know what is popular with the youth here, but for the next class I got requests for more Pitbull and Celine Dion!
1. Warmup Song: Moukana Wein, Myriam Fares
2. C'est La Vie, Khaled
3. Rain Over Me, Pitbull feat. Marc Anthony
4. On the Floor, Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull
5. We Found Love, Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris
6. Mr. Saxobeat, Alexandra Stan
7. Love you Like a Love Song, Selena Gomez
8. Glamorous, Fergie feat. Ludacris
9. Run the World (Girls), Beyonce
10. Waka Waka (This Time for Africa), Shakira
11. Cooldown song: Inas Inas, Mohamed Rouicha

I'll post more updates as my class continues!


  1. This is awesome that you did this! When I move to Morocco I hope to be apart of something like this! Fitness, fun, and friendships!

    1. Thanks so much Kristi! I hope you can be a part of this too, it's a great experience :)