Fit for Us: An Open Letter to the Fitness Industry

The following is a copy of the open letter written by Fit for Us, a new organization working toward change in the fitness industry. You can read more about their cause in our September cover story, here.

Dear Fitness Industry:

First, we want to acknowledge the lives and families of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and the disturbing number of Black lives lost as a result of systemic oppression. We are enraged. We are grieving. Most of all, we are committed to bringing about change.

The Time for Change Is Now

This is a call to be in active solidarity to support Black Fitness Professionals and underserved communities limited by social and structural inequalities related to fitness. Both social and structural inequalities lead to health inequalities and ill-being in our communities. The majority of Black people in America don’t have access to quality health and fitness related resources.

  • Predominantly Black populated areas are less likely to have a gym and recreational center.

  • Marginalized income areas are 4.5x less likely to have a recreational facility.

  • 94% of the nation’s majority African American counties are food insecure.

These statistics alone are merely a glimpse of what being Black in fitness is like for us and our families. Two major problems are: The social and structural inequities specific to the Black community, and fitness industry leaders not investing in the holistic health of Black people in America. As Lavizzo-Mourey and Willams (2016) put it: “…the often unspoken truth is that being a person of color in America—whatever your economic status—is bad for your health.” The following data is evidence that the fitness industry is in desperate need for change:

  • Black-populated areas are 51% more likely to be obese compared to non-Hispanic Whites.

  • The leading cause of death in Black Americans is heart disease and 42% of Black people in the U.S. have high blood pressure.

  • Black people in the U.S. are 80% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.

As an organization that aims to advocate, empower, and service Black fitness professionals, we will not remain silent as Black lives in our community are cut short due to health disparities. We are demanding widespread changes to the fitness industry and how it services Black and underserved communities on several fronts. In order to do so, the fitness industry must first acknowledge how it treats its Black employees, who exist on the frontmlines of this national health crisis.

In the midst of public outcries, protest, and anger expressed by vulnerable communities, brands, CEOs, and gyms spoke out. However, because these leadership teams lack racial diversity, Black fitness professionals and many in the Black community were made to feel unheard and unspoken for. How is it possible for Black culture to play a significant role in the economic success of an industry, yet the Black people working in these spaces are often made to feel invisible?

  • We are tired of internalizing the usage of the “N Word” in group fitness classes.

  • We will no longer remain silent about the way we’re marketed, and how it reinforces problematic stereotypes.

  • We are fed up with receiving inadequate pay relative to our peers.

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