• Get Women Moving campaign launched on World Health Day

Women in Barbados will be fitter, healthier and less likely to develop diabetes and other non-communicable diseases if the Get Women Moving campaign gets off the ground. Launched during a World Health Day event in the capital Bridgetown on Thursday, the programme is promoting a simple idea: provide inexpensive exercise and dance classes for women across the island.

With the classes costing BDS$ 3.00 (US$ 1.5), for less than 10 dollars a week women can achieve the World Health Organization recommendation of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Only one in ten meet this target currently and a significant reason given for this lack of exercise is the often prohibitive cost of attending gyms and classes.

Sunshine Chicas

The campaign was inspired by fitness instructor Heather Drakes who has been running classes for the Sunshine Chicas group at the Alleyne School in the parish of St. Andrew for over two years. Some 20-30 women attend each session and those who go regularly report less shortness of breath, better ability to manage diabetes if they are living with the condition, and improved weight loss.

Ms Drakes teamed up with academic researcher Miriam Alvarado who came across the group during her research into women and physical activity as a Fulbright fellow. Get Women Moving was born. It is funded by the Pan American Health Organization and the Maria Holder Memorial Trust (managed by the Healthy Caribbean Coalition, a regional civil society organisation) and supported by the Ministry of Health and the National Task Force on Physical Activity and Exercise.

The goal is eventually to have a three dollar class in every parish in the country and then to expand regionally. Currently there are six trainers recruited and it is hoped that more members of the community will join the training team.

Click on the images below to see photo gallery. All Photo credits: Malou Morgan

Why women are not moving enough

According to Ms Alvarado’s research there are a number of significant barriers leading to greater physical inactivity in women. As well as perceived expense, these include: gender norms that limit women’s opportunity to exercise as they are often primarily committed to childcare (with many seeing their role as being the ‘sacrificial mother’) and limited options for ‘active commuting’ and walking to work.

Ms Alvarado contends that the campaign can help to address some of these obstacles and make a difference in the response to non-communicable diseases. “Research shows that women are much less active than men in Barbados, and we suspect that similar dynamics hold true across the region. When women are more active and fitter they are less likely to develop NCDs, such as diabetes and hypertension,” she said, adding, “We hope that this initiative will lead to an increase in the number of women (and children and men) who are consistently active, and lead to healthier communities across Barbados and the region.”

The Get Women Moving launch took place during a free fitness event in Independence Square, Bridgetown, to celebrate World Health Day which this year focused on diabetes. It was run by the Ministry of Health and the National Task Force on Physical Activity and Exercise. Dubbed Get Moving – Beat Diabetes, the event included health checks, exercise classes, tai chi and yoga sessions as well as a soca jump up.

Contacts: getwomenmoving@gmail.com or Facebook here for updates on class times/schedules.

For more information on Miriam Alvarado’s paper: Barriers and facilitators to physical activity amongst overweight and obese women in an Afro-Caribbean population: A qualitative study click here.