Several months ago women with children 5 months to 5 years agreed to participate in weekly Monday sessions geared to the health/nutrition of their children. Out of these sessions these same women expressed the desire to tackle their own health. Therefore, it was suggested that we form a group that would address these issues; beginning those initial steps that would lead to healthier lifestyles for ourselves. Since there are no gyms or health facilities in Mahdia an aerobics class seemed like the best way to begin. It is fun and can be done in a private space without onlookers.
Over the course of three months twelve women all with young children met every Friday from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM for floor aerobics with an experienced teacher. Each woman was given a mat and a water bottle upon payment of the registration fee of $500 dollars. Depending on availability a 20-30 minute nutrition/diet session was held either at the beginning or end of the aerobics sessions.
In the beginning, class attendance was slow but, by the end of the course women had to be turned away due to space constraints. The majority of the exercises performed were designed so that the women could perform them on their own. In fact, women were encouraged weekly to do this.Â By the end of the sessions all women noted an increase in energy levels and all women expressed interest in continuing exercise after official class ceased.
Currently, steps are being put into place to have a year round class open to all women living in the community. In the interim the women are keeping up on their own.
CHALLENGES AND SUCCESSES
When implementing this project there were few challenges due to the excitement of the women. Those that arose had to do with logistics. For example, finding a venue that would accommodate the number of person's involved and agreeing on a day and time that worked for the women and the instructor. In addition, once that class was underway it was frustrating to have to turn persons away from the class. In fact, several persons joined who were not initially expected. Issues with the current in the interior often proved problematic. Sometimes current was available and sometimes it was not. At several points the time of class had to be altered to accommodate a change in a key person's schedule. However, if for whatever purposes class was canceled there was always a make-up class the following Saturday. The women often expressed the need for more classes during the week. However, the schedule of the instructor would not permit this addition nor the budget. However, the women were encouraged to meet on their own to exercise. This happened once or twice but all women expressed the fact that it was easier to exercise with the instructor there. This was cause for some alarm because the point was for the women to gain enough confidence to continue you on long after the instructor had finished with his class.
Initially, there were to be meetings twice a week. One strictly for the aerobics and the other geared to nutrition. The women found it difficult to attend these separate meetings about nutrition so in the end they were canceled and all nutrition lessons came on the tail end of aerobics classes.
Successes of the course were many. However, the most telling would be the amount of persons who wanted to join the class and the state of the women when the course officially ended. Upon commencing with the course the captain of the group and myself were approached by six additional women who wanted to join. Unfortunately, only two were able to be accepted due to the space of the venue. In addition, the instructor said that he would offer classes after this class had officially ended and all of the women expressed intentions of attending. In addition to the excitement over more classes all of the women who participated reported back increases in energy and more flexibility. Overall, the class went extremely well, persons were sad to see it end and had learned a great deal that they could and expressed interest in doing until the initiation of the next class.