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Saudi Arabia has agreed to issue formal licenses for female-only gyms to promote women’s health.
A government-authorized health program will establish a female-only gym in every neighborhood, starting with the country’s capital Riyadh. According to Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud of the General Authority of Sports, this program is focused solely on helping women lose weight and stay healthy.
Because of this, the government will only legalize gyms that have weight management activities like swimming, running, and body-building. Female-only gyms that offer competitive sports, such as football, volleyball, and tennis, are still banned.
In Saudi Arabia, doing highly physical activities is a religious taboo for women. Statistics have shown that there are more obese women than men in the country, which health advocates attribute to women’s inactive lifestyles. In an effort to address this, female-only gyms will be promoted through motivational seminars. The princess hopes that explaining the health benefits of gyms would increase its social acceptance, especially among conservative Muslim women.
In previous years, female-only gyms were licensed as spas or women’s centers. Owners were also very wary of how their businesses were presented to the public. These limitations slowed down customer traffic and eventually led most of the gyms to close down.
Now that female-only gyms have been legalized, Princess Reema predicts that around 250,000 jobs will be created. This will also help increase the number of women in the workforce, a goal aligned with Saudi Arabia’s national vision.