In a refugee camp setting, women are especially prone to physical inactivity, isolation, high stress, and depression. Women report spending most of their time within their small homes and tents.
The World Health Organization states that:
“Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally. Regular moderate intensity physical activity – such as walking, cycling, or participating in sports – has significant benefits for health. For instance, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, and depression. Moreover adequate levels of physical activity will decrease the risk of a hip or vertebral fracture and help control weight.” (WHO 2018)
With all this in mind, we set out to provide a safe, fun, accessible, and consistent place for women to release stress, build community, and increase overall wellness through group fitness classes.
Operation Mercy operates a women’s fitness program in two Syrian Refugee Camps with the following goals:
Operation Mercy provides one to two-hour fitness classes three times a week in Domiz 1 and four times a week in Domiz 2. The project serves 200 beneficiaries each month.
Group fitness classes have many benefits for physical, mental, and emotional health. From our current project, women have expressed things like (dramatic) weight loss, better self-image, increased confidence, increased energy, decreased reoccurring sickness, healthier marriages, increased patience with children, new friendships, and a stronger sense of community amongst each other. One of the women from the Fitness Leadership Team even decided to give back to her community by providing fitness classes to teenage girls. She was recognized for her unique volunteer efforts and interviewed by several local TV stations. We are thankful for the positive impact the Women’s Fitness program has had in Domiz 1 & 2. In the future, we hope to see even more women benefit from a fun, consistent, safe place to exercise within their communities.
Group fitness is a valuable activity in several ways. It benefits the women by creating a positive atmosphere for community building. It improves physical health through exercise, and it provides an appropriate outlet for stress relief.