Saudi women will finally be able to hit the gym, the kingdom's sports authority revealed this week.
Princess Reema bint Bandar, vice president for women's affairs at the General Authority of Sports, told Saudi daily Okaz that women's gyms will be granted licenses by the end of February.
The Sports Authority also plans to open a female-only gym in every district in the kingdom.
This comes as obesity rates among Saudi women reaches alarming rates, at around 44%.
After a long history of being denied licenses or shut down, female sports facilities will now be encouraged. The ministries of labor, rural affairs and commerce will issue licenses for women's gyms and establishing female sports facilities in numerous neighborhood.
Authorities will seek the help of up-and-coming entrepreneurs to invest in these venues.
“It is not my role to convince the society, but my role is limited to opening the doors for our girls to live a healthy lifestyle away from diseases that result from obesity and lack of movement," Princess Reema told Arab News,
Girls do not receive physical education in state schools, and private schools rarely include mandatory physical education classes.
A 2015 study found that 73.1% of Saudi women are physically inactive. The impact is evident in the disproportionate rates of obesity between males and females in the kingdom. Forty four percent of the adult Saudi female population is obese, compared to 26% of the male population.
Competitive sports are still off-limits
Competitive sports are still off-limits, and licenses will not be granted to female sports clubs with sports like tennis, soccer and volleyball.
Saudi Arabian women cannot participate in state-organized sports leagues or national tournaments. International competitions are also far-fetched since governing bodies refuse to hold sporting competitions or qualifying events for women.
No official sports clubs are open to women, according to The Huffington Post.
But, Saudi Arabia has seen significant progress when it comes to women in sports. The kingdom sent female athletes to compete for the first time at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
A female Saudi has even brought home an Olympic medal. Perhaps the most celebrated female Saudi athlete, show jumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas, won a bronze equestrian medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics.