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Pushing for more health and fitness centers in Black communities

Pushing for more minority fitness centers
Posted at 1:32 PM, Feb 20, 2023

DETROIT, Mich. — No matter which city you go to, there's an issue of accessibility to certain lifestyles when it comes to minority communities. Whether it's a lack of access to food, access to a pharmacy or even a hospital, the main issue activist report is a lack of access to health improvement.

But there's another growing issue that Black business owners are trying to solve and that's access to centers dedicated to fitness, wellness, and health.

"COVID slowed everything down,” said Jamel Randall, owner of Trap Yoga and Massage Studio in Detroit. “All of that put life into perspective for so many people who were kind of working on autopilot. When you see so much death you start to appreciate life a little bit more. You start to protect yourself a little bit more. And one of the ways to protect yourself from covid was to be in good shape."

For a lot of minorities in Detroit, access to a gym or fitness center wasn’t something that was ever a priority or deemed a necessity.

“Fitness was more seen as a luxury than a necessity,” said Ashlee Pulliam, a trainer for Kratos Fitness Gym in Detroit. "We kind of live to get by a lot. And that's been kind of a generational thing I would say. I don't think we were privy to all of the benefits that come with living a lifestyle that includes fitness and promotes longevity."

"I really didn't get access to a gym till I got to high school, “said Clarence Gleton, owner of Kratos Fitness Gym. “We need to see other people like us working out as well. Our people really suffer due to our eating habits and other things like working out properly and not having a full understanding on how to work out."

One of the major health issues in the Black community is obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38% of men over the age of 20 are obese. For women over the age of 20, it's 55%.

Experts say accessibility to health centers can be part of the issue.

According to a report by Statista, health fitness and wellness center membership rates are low in the Black community. Studies report only 12.3% of health club members in the country are Black compared to 66% that are white.

"I think things are changing for the better,” Pulliam said. “We are getting more representation out there."

Black business owners decided to create their own wellness and fitness centers in the very community they grew up in to involve more people of color.

"Just last week I had a lady come to the class, a Black lady,” Randall said. “I asked, 'Was everything good?' She said, ‘It just feels good to yoga with Black people.’ You know it's never about isolation. But It's a different vibration when you see someone who looks like you are working on themselves. It's inspiring and it's promising for the future as well."

"Representation is everything,” Pulliam said. “I'm a woman, an African American woman, and I'm a powerlifter. I'm not a size two. So, a lot of times when people see me, they ask ‘how can she train someone?’ Don't be so quick to judge.”

“I think the more that we're out here and putting ourselves out there more, the more we can affect some type of change,” Gleton said. “Especially dealing with mental health. Even in my job every day, all day, I come across people who struggle with their mental health. I know one of the key things that helped me serving in the military was fitness."

According to Mental Health America, mental health plays a crucial role in the Black community. MHA reports 16% of the Black population reported having a mental illness in the last year.

"I suffer with anxiety and depression,” Pulliam said. “I've been at the bottom, and I know what it feels like to feel hopeless and feel like a failure. If I had allowed those to take me away at my darkness I wouldn't be here now.”

Wellness centers can be a way to encourage those in their community to use fitness as an outlet for mental health…because the Mental Health Foundation says exercise can lower depression by 30 percent.

"This is the vision of a lot of people just like me,” Randall said. “We’re going to change the narrative in the city of Detroit, and it starts with us."