Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Is Exercise a Cultural Thing?

Have you always recognized the importance of physical activity and healthy eating? Do you notice a distinction between the eating patterns and lack of exercise in our culture compared to other cultures?

My story:

Exercise and eating healthy were the least of my concerns in high school. I was focused on keeping my hair fly and buying new outfits. Looking back I realize how unimportant healthy eating and exercise were to me. Lunch at my high school consisted of Flamin' hots w/nacho cheese and a Geyser (a sugary filled drink) or food from McDonalds. None of my friends were focused on exercise or eating healthy either (unless they were athletes). I realize now how detrimental these habits were to my health.

I did not recognize the importance of exercise until I attended a PWI (predominately white institution). I noticed that all the white chicks were hitting the gym on a daily basis and wouldn't touch food unless it was marked low carb or low fat. They were extremely health conscious and always sharing the latest news from their "Fitness Magazines." So while I was busy eating what I wanted and gaining the freshman 15/20 they maintained their healthy bodies. I eventually realized that I needed to hit the gym and change my eating habits.

It has always been hard for me to understand why "Exercise and Healthy Eating" was common knowledge among them. Clearly, I was completely out of the loop, where I grew up you didn't exercise unless you were on a sports team.

The Research
I found an article that evaluated ethnic disparities in teen exercise. Here are some of the key findings:

* Overall, black and Hispanic girls reported less activity than white girls -- an average of 5.4, 5.2 and 6.0 activities per week, respectively. In contrast, among boys, the number of activities per week was similar for blacks (7.6), Hispanics (7.5) and whites (7.6).

*On average, black and Hispanic adolescents had a higher body mass index (BMI) than white adolescents.

* In general, black and Hispanic girls attended poorer schools in which all girls had lower physical activity levels

*Overall, adolescent girls were less physically active than boys, reporting fewer physical activities per week.

Want to read the full article? Click the Link!

Share Your Thoughts!
What has your experience been? When did you recognize the importance of exercise?

Why do you think Black and Hispanic Teens don't get as much exercise?


Anonymiss said...

Hey FG,
I've noticed that exercise is definitely a cultural thing in our community. Growing up, my idea of weight loss (like a lot ppl) was simply pushing yourself away from the table.

I remember Debra Dickerson wrote an about how Black women are overweight because they wanna look like Buffie the Body. I found the article very short-sighted because of the premise and she was misinformed about a couple of things. What stuck out in the article was a doctor stating that Black women's main reason for not working out is because it'll sweat out our hair.

I can see how that would be a factor. There's a lot of pressure to be presentable and our hair type is not a fan of humidity.

I've worked out on and off for 5 years but now I vow to be consistent. My dad's diabetic and my sis has just learned of having fibroids so I wanna keep my weight at a reasonable number.

When I first started working out, I had a perm and I would flat-iron my hair because of the frizzing. Now that I've gone natural, I don't have to worry about that anymore and I can wash my hair more often now that it's natural.

Fitness Goddess said...

Thanks for the comment! I have finally committed to working out consistently myself. It took me a long time to figure out that this thw only way I could maintain my health.

I will look into the Debra Dickerson article.


Evia said...

I think it is a cultural issue among SOME black folks. There are a number of issues that bw in general aren't encouraged to talk about and weight and exercise are high up on the list.

Actually, there's a bw I know who has managed to lose a lot of weight (by walking everyday and being more food-conscious) and people in the social circle are concerned about her. LOL! It's as if that's just "unnatural" for a bw--to lose that amount of weight.

I mentioned that to my husband (who is white) and he said she looks just great and was surprised that anyone would be "concerned" that she's lost the excessive weight she was carrying.

During and since college, various blacks have made sly put-downs to me for my focus on having a weight and exercise-conscious lifestyle. So it is cultural to the extent that many blacks apparently do believe that bw are supposed to carry around more weight.

Glennisha Morgan said...

I'm very glad that I ran across your blog. I just started back exercising so I'll definitely need the motivation. I was watching the Michael Baisden show the other night and A.J. was on there. The topic was obesity in the Black community. I think a lot of Black women won't exercise because they want to sweat out their hair or weaves. That's a huge issue w/ Black women and exercising. Luckily I have locs so I have no problem but, I know that if I was still wearing a perm there is no way that I would have started back exercising.

mekare said...

Hey Fitness Goddess,

Is exercise or physical activity encouraged amongst black women? I can say no. Also, if you are asking whether or not lot of black women aware that you have to exercise consistently in order to maintain your health and the curves we are proud of? I would also say no.

Personally, I've dealt with weight issues throughout my life. I was encouraged in various ways by black women like my mother, her friends, and my friends, ect., to loose weight.

However, I can say that neither they nor I realized permanent changes would have to be made to keep the weight off. Going to the gym was seen as too expensive, sports weren’t encouraged and neither were at-home workout tapes.

I think the eating habits of black American women should be updated. Soul food is a biggie. In my experience, knowing how to cook means knowing how to cook pecan pie, fried chicken, baked macaroni and cheese and other high-calorie foods (ex: Patti Labelle.) Cooking low-calorie food really wasn't taught, encouraged or even considered "white."

The hair thing is a problem as well. Black women's hair isn’t the easy to manage whether you have a relaxer, extensions or are unrelaxed. Our hair takes a lot of work and sweating it out is just not very appealing. This part is simple to deal with. Changing our hairstyles and maybe cutting it short can help.

I can say that the health aspect of obesity is known but are not really discussed.

I think the Deborah Dickerson article is way off. There are other “hip-hop hunnies” that exercise a lot. Ki Toy Johnson and Melissa Ford are a few that come to mind.

I know black women don’t want to look white be white or anything like that and that factors into the equation.

Overall, a lot black women do need to loose weight but this can be solved. The stuff I talked about above can help. We can toss that around a bit. It’s hard but easy to deal with (in comparison to life’s other problems.)

My body-type roll models Lalia Ali and Ki-Toy who I mentioned above. They have the best figures I remember seeing.

Fitness Goddess said...

Thanks Mekare! I didn't realize the permanent changes that had to be made either until this year. That was what really inspired me to start this blog. There were so many barriers that I felt that I had to break through. Making permanent changes was one of them. I think that this topic is post worthy and I will see what I can come up with.

Never200 said...

Exercise and eating healthy were never part of my lifestyle growing up. It was not until after I put on more than the usual during college, that I realized something had to be done. It has been a struggle, but I haven't quit. Growing up in a predominately white community, I have noticed that there is more of a focus on exercise healthy eating. Then there are those who are weight obsessed and want to be a size 0.

I think there are several reasons, some of which have been mentioned already sich as culture, hair, childhood. I also think that in general, we appreciate curves and our version of overweight differs from the norm.

At this point, I just want a healthy BMI, whatever size that may be.