Manama: Saudi Arabia’s Shura [Consultative] Council on Monday called for encouraging the private sector to establish fitness centres for women.
The decision stipulated that the centres provide a dedicated section for women with special needs.
The 150-member Council asked the General Authority of Sports to intensify community sports programmes for both young men and women throughout the kingdom and to provide regular reports, supported by figures, about the reality of the development of sports in society, including sports for women, Saudi news site Sabq reported.
The decision by the council that comprises 30 female members will be a major boost for women who have been calling for the establishment of health and fitness centres for various reasons.
Three months ago, reports said that Fitness First Middle East would launch ladies-only gyms in Saudi Arabia this year.
The clubs will offer classes, including BodyPump, Zumba and RPM and exclusive group training 6D, which is based on six dimensions of fitness: move, lift, core, burn, function and recover.
The operator has a network of female-only gyms across the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan and Kuwait.
In June 2013, Saudi Arabia’s first dedicated sports centre for girls was formally opened, heralding more steps for women’s empowerment in the country.
The centre in the eastern province city of Khobar offered training programmes that included physical fitness, karate, yoga and weight loss as well as special activities for children.
Several Saudi businesswomen attended the opening ceremony after the General Presidency of Youth Welfare granted the club the licence allowing women to practise sports.
“This first licence is a start for women’s investments in sports,” Hana Al Zuhair, the club owner, said. “They can now look forward to having partnerships with local and international trainers.”
Some of the Saudi trainers hired by the club had been trained abroad, she said.
“We did not have any problem getting the licence and I am confident that the centre will have a strong impact on the lives of Saudi women who unfortunately engage in physical activities without a carefully planned programme or in the presence of experts.”
The centre will work closely with schools after the authorities had allowed schools to offer physical education classes in the girls’ schools.
“We will train the trainers after we reach accords with those in charge of the schools in the area,” she said.
Shuaa Al Duhailan, the head of Women’s Workshops in the Eastern Province, said the opening of the first sports centre for women would have a strong influence on women in the region.
“Sports centres will truly re-energise women and will enhance their work performances,” she said. “We are confident that we can now have more licensed centres that will allow women to engage in physical activities in a scientific way, and not haphazardly as before.”