Health News sponsored by VCU Health
Celebrating the Month of May as
National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
By: J. Chevonte’ Alexander
Did you know that regular physical activity increases your chances of living a longer, healthier life? In this week’s Urban Views Health News, we chat with Dr. Candace Johnson, Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing. Dr. Johnson primarily teaches Community Health Nursing to nursing students and also teaches a community-based clinical section in the Richmond’s Southside community.
Dr. Johnson describes her passion for health research in the African American community and working with the participants (not patients) as her way to evoke change in her community. With a Master’s in Public Health, Johnson looks at the sociological and psychological components and contextual factors related to health behaviors that eventually lead to disease due to poor health decisions.
We had the opportunity to chat with her about the lack of physical activity in the African American community, and in recognition of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, how we can begin to better take care of our own bodies and the communities we live in.
May 1st marks the start of the annual National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, led by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. The month highlights the importance of healthy lifestyles, being physically active, and participating in your favorite sports.
That’s why National Physical Education and Sport Week – observed May 1-7 – is the perfect kickoff. May is the ideal time to get outside, be active, and enjoy nice weather.
Growing up in the city of Petersburg, a city plagued with poor health conditions, she understood that to make a change in the community, she had to do something more than learning and practicing medicine. “Medicine is more about prescriptions and telling you what is wrong, and I wanted to deal with diseases before they occur.”
Her mother had Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease and the health issues affecting the African American community started to hit home for Johnson. Changing behaviors and looking at societal determinants affecting the African American community became a priority.
“What I began to notice in my own family and community is that we are dying from preventable diseases.”
Unfortunately, as statistics and research show, African Americans rank at the top for chronic diseases due to poor health decisions. From heart disease to obesity, our community takes lead in categories that are killing us. But, we can change these statistics by beginning to have the conversations in our homes, churches, schools and communities. Why are African Americans plagued by poor health conditions? It begins with talking and then changing behaviors. Let’s get active!
During the month of May, we challenge all adults to get 30 minutes of physical activity every day. It also reduces your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and some types of cancer. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults:
- Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Moderate activity includes things like walking fast, dancing, swimming, and raking leaves.
- Do muscle-strengthening activities – like lifting weights or using exercise bands – at least 2 days a week.
“People have to realize that getting healthy is a process.” comments Johnson. “It takes small behavior changes to make a healthy lifestyle sustainable.” Physical activity is for everyone. No matter what shape you are in, you can find activities that work for you. Together, we can rise to the challenge and get more active during the month of May!
Check out our next Health News column, as we continue the conversation with Dr. Johnson with a two-part series on the health of African American women and the societal barriers that keep us inactive.