While she has faced criticism taking her “Let’s Move” campaign across the country, the First Lady’s fitness initiative has continued gaining steam and media attention.  And while the initiative is Michelle’s attempt to help fight childhood obesity, “Let’s Move” has also prompted a conversation among black women about what fitness means to us.

The conversation on black women’s bodies is often a contentious one.  We all have very definitions of what a health body is and what it looks like.  Within the community of black women, there are very different opinions of how the role of how fitness play into our lives.

For many of us, being a healthy woman means having some meat on your bones.  For others it means looking lean.  However, looks are often not the best indicator of our health- our habits and discipline are.

According to Womenshealth.gov, African-Americans have the most, and many times the largest, differences in health risks when compared to other minority groups.  In fact, 4 out of 5 African-American overweight or obese. There is a growing movement focused on black women’s health and fitness, including Black Girls Run, a group featured last year here on Clutch.

As more and more black women are becoming health-conscious consumers, there remains a conflict between our aim for a better lifestyle and what black women view as desirable.

Black women are often raised to believe beautiful mean having curves or “something to hold on to,” do our ideals help or hurt us determine the importance of fitness in our lives?

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  • Wow

    People can be suspect of the statistics but when you roll out of bed Monday morning on your way to work, school, daycare or to look for employment; you will see more fat black women than any ethnic group. How do you justify that? How do you say, my curves are worth dying for. Worth a short life span. Worth risking my health? I’m hearing to many mediocre voices in our community telling women, “It’s ok to be average. Why do you want to be in top shape anyway?. Just settle. Relax.”

    It’s sicking that we are even having this conversation.

  • Adriii

    Rather than focusing on weight and clothing size, I think we should measure our fitness by the amount of physical activity we can perform. IMO (and I am not an athletic trainer, mind you), the average person should be able to run a mile under a certain time (say, 10 min), lift a certain percent of their body weight and stretch to a certain extent. That’s cardio, strength, and flexibility. Concentration on physical fitness would give a more accurate (and attainable) standard.

    • Kay Lee

      I agree with you up until you said that weight shouldnt be an issue. But I do agree that clothing size should not matter and we should all be able to run, lift and have flexibility.

      The reason why I say weight should matter is because I have a few clients (I am a trainer) who can run, lift and are flexible but they are very overweight. They are still on medication and need to lose the pounds to live a long life. The number on the scale is very important as is your self esteem (positive body image), your eating habits, spirituality, stress level and personal relationships.

      I totally disagree with MInna K. I work in the gym and have been to far too many to know that in MY experience, I have not seen a lot of black women in there working out and havent seen that many outside walking/running or doing any type of exercise (and yes I am a black woman). FOr the women I have trained, the sessions usually start with complaints of sweat because of hair or asking am i going to lose my butt only for me to show them my ass…lol..and how to take care of their hair so they aren’t wasting money.