Making the First Step on the Road to a Healthier Life


I would not be genuine if I pretended to be a fitness diva or a celebrity trainer. I am not. My clients come to me from all walks of life, and professional and non-professional careers. Their ages range from kinder care to golden years and most have never been on television, walked the red carpet, or stood in front of a crowd on any platform.

As a fitness and wellness coach, my role is to take fitness off their list of challenges. But let’s be real. Being healthy is not easy. It is a constant battle for many individuals, especially in the African-American community.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Hygiene’s (USDHH) Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 1.5 times more likely to be obese then their White counterparts. It is a sobering pill to swallow especially when you learn that African-American men are 70 percent more likely to be overweight or obese. African-American women fare worse at 80 percent. That is four out of every five women. While there are promising statistics that show a slight national decrease in obesity on a preschool level, obesity has tripled in the past 30 years for children between the ages of 5-17, according to the Centers of Disease, Control and Prevention (CDCP). While the nation on a whole will see parents outliving their youth if this trend continues, this will affect a staggering 40 percent of the African-American community.

There is no shortage of research on the dangers of inactivity, but the dangers do not quell the rise in obesity. Something has to give. Thankfully, education propels participation. So this column will provide answers to the community’s most pressing questions on nutrition, exercise, and total wellness, and to catalyze a revolution towards a healthier life.

Growing up in the blistering summers and harsh winters of Toronto to Jamaican immigrant parents, I regularly walked to school, played outside for hours before dinner, and sat down with the family to eat cooked meals. Television and fast foods were rarities in our home.

The world has changed. It is not what it used to be. With three small children of my own, I understand the trials of getting them off the couch and into the parks. While organized sports have increased in recent years, so have the lines at fast food drive thrus. Families spend more time in their cars when they are not on the couch, and those are the active ones. How do we add exercise to an already never-ending list of to-dos? In bite size pieces.

I am a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise and performance enhancement specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. I earned the title Ms. Maryland figure and fitness twice during my career, but the title I love the most is Mom. I teach boot camp, Zumba and Pilates classes, and preach nutrition. I absolutely love working with the baby boomer community because they tell it like it is. That has become my mantra.Fitness5001

Exercise and healthy eating will not come easy if you do not make it a priority. Period. It can be the Holy Grail of all life’s nagging ailments and the prevention of life’s cruelest diseases. It can add years to your life, make you feel good, and reduce stress. Fourteen years of experience as a fitness trainer has shown we can eradicate obesity if we make it a priority. There just is not any other way.

These columns will urge you to pull out your sneakers, speak with your doctor, and change your life. “The physical and emotional health of an entire generation, and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake,” Michelle Obama said at theJust Move” launch, and she is right. The road to a healthier journey begins with that first step.

Marcia Ra-Akbar is a fitness writer and wellness coach.

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