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By: Dr. Phyllis Hudson-Bivins

April offers many opportunities for national and international celebrations.

These include Day of Silence, Earth Day, World Malaria Day, Arbor Day, World Autism Acceptance Day, Independent Bookstore Day, National Parks Week, Poetry Month, and the most important for meNational African American Women’s Fitness Month. The latter is where I will spend my focus for the month of April.

Like any celebration, the purpose of the National African American Women’s Fitness Month is to raise awareness of ways to be proactive about significant health issues that seem to affect us more than any other ethnicity.

Let’s dive into this one. First, let’s be clear for those who may not know, according to the American Heart Association, half, yes, I said half of all African American women in the United States have a form of cardiovascular disease.

It’s a staggering number. In fact, according to the March of Dimes, as of March 31, 2023, as black women, we make up only 14% of the American population, and if half of us have some form of cardiovascular disease, that means 7% of us. fall into this category.

It’s a scary number. And to add insult to injury, those of us in that 7% are more likely to die of heart problems than women of any other ethnicity.

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It is important; therefore, I’m going to spend some time discussing this matter, hoping someone will bring about a change and maybe save their own life, including me checking my own status.

So let’s talk about the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease in African American women. These factors include what I call the big four: high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and smoking. These conditions stem primarily from physical inactivity on our part. But another factor that plays a role in our declining health is chronic stress.

And where does this stress come from? Believe it or not, there is a direct correlation between stress in African American women and the sexism and discrimination that occurs in our homes and workplaces.

Then in some facets of our culture, when possible, our wives are expected to stay home and raise the children, while that’s a noble gesture, it’s also another culprit because it leads to inactivity . And because everything is cyclical, these factors increase our chances of becoming hypertensive and obese, which can lead to heart problems.

If that’s not enough to think about, in many of our family dynamics the food choices made tend to be of cheaper and less healthy foods due to economic conditions. Over time, these food choices take their toll on our health.

But there is great news! We can beat the Big Four by incorporating the following five exercises into our routines.

These exercises will help reduce heart problems and best of all, it’s never too late to start.

  1. Practice balance exercises. These can be practiced through Yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi. The benefits are enormous and include strengthening leg muscles and improving your balance. This exercise is essential for aging women. However, there are other factors that affect our balance or balance, which have no age requirement. These are conditions of the inner ear or even diabetes. But these are not the only factors.
  2. Practice flexibility and balance exercises. Believe it or not, that simple stretch we do in the morning or after sitting down for a while helps. Stretching exercises help improve our flexibility, but they also help prevent joint pain and cramps. And an added benefit is that it can lower blood pressure for those of us with high blood pressure.
  3. Practice strength resistance exercises. Although we should be careful when working with weights, especially if we are older women, weight work and push-ups can help reduce fat and reduce muscle mass.
  4. Practice sports exercises for the whole body. These exercises include swimming, cycling, and tennis as they force us to engage our arms and legs. But what if you don’t swim, play tennis or ride a bike? Well, I don’t either, however, I dance everyday, that’s how I reach my goal of 10,000 steps a day. And yes, dancing is a full-body workout. I enjoy it and it’s fun. It’s also good for your heart, makes you stronger, and can help with balance and coordination. The bounty ? A 30-minute dance session can burn between 130 and 250 calories, which is roughly equivalent to jogging. I know it’s true because I read it daily on my Fitbit! So go ahead.
  5. Practice aerobic exercises. There are several benefits that come from this practice. When we run or engage in cardio workouts and push-ups, we help ourselves improve blood circulation, reduce the risk of diabetes, and increase our overall fitness.

Self-care is important for several reasons. One of the two most important reasons is that we need to build self-care into our lives if we plan to be around for years to come, and for those of us who have children, especially our daughters, we must give them examples to follow.

When we do this, we break the cycle of past bad behavior. In turn, our daughters will pass on these positive practices to their children.

So if you want to positively observe National African American Women’s Fitness Month, be an example by participating in exercises, visiting a gym, spreading the word, and sharing your experiences.

Until next time, keep flying with your own wings.

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