Becoming Your Own Health Advocate

This summer I decided it was time for a change. I was feeling powerless against the many reports I had been reading about African-Americans and their health. African-Americans are plagued with the highest risk factors for certain cancers, heart disease, and diabetes. Not wanting to become another statistic, I became interested in figuring out a new way to get and stay fit.

I found it particularly important to try something different to what I had been doing because the traditional routine of gym visits and occasional jogging just wasn’t keeping my interest. I eventually found a fitness boot camp and decided to give it a try. But, was I really ready to wake up in time for 6:00 am workout? Was I really ready to do this every weekday morning? Was I seriously willing to add any more waking hours to my already arduous day?  I wasn’t, at first, but I quickly fell into a great routine with the workouts.

Neechie Greer, my boot camp’s personal fitness advocate, worked tirelessly to motivate us during these early morning workouts and keep us interested in returning day after rigorous day. Greer has been working as a fitness trainer for quite some time. She first started out as an athletic trainer in college while majoring in physical therapy to now founding her own company, Artinad Enterprises, and helping everyday people stay active and fit.

She touts a message that we’ve all heard before: diet and exercise need not stop after reaching your goal weight. Greer thinks “the simple step of taking care of ourselves allows anyone to lead a better and more fulfilled life.” How do we get all African-Americans to take this step and become more aware of the health risks that face them? Greer believes that we should support each other’s attempts at healthier lifestyles. “[People] should get out and start support and exercise groups. Team up with professionals within the health and fitness industry and put together programs that interest them.”

Since my positive two-month experience of boot camp, I’ve started exploring other fitness programs and active-lifestyle options to add variety to my fitness options. Samba classes and yoga are my newest activities and I’m hoping to build up the courage to join a friend’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. Making a change to becoming your own health advocate seems like a no-brainer for most SNMA members, but the community at large needs to make a bigger effort to decrease the risk factors that each ethnic group faces.  As Greer indicates, the only way to change up your approach to health and exercise is to “take ownership and initiative. In the end, it is your own accountability that will allow you to succeed.”

Article written by:

Graciano Petersen

MA, Tulane University

SNMA Publications Committee Vice-Chair, 2011 – 2012

Filed Under: FeaturedLifestyles

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