In this episode, Tinu speaks with Gabrielle Cole – the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Fit and Food Connection – an organization focused on offering people living in food and fitness deserts access to free nutritious food and physical activities while encouraging and supporting healthy living. Gabrielle will elaborate on why underserved communities have less access to fitness and fitness education, the impact of community engagement, and tips for how to promote a healthy, active lifestyle in families.
“There are a variety of programs in our underserved communities. However, they’re at capacity or there’s a disconnect between the community being served and the program leaders, the local officials or the executive directors or the investors… In our communities that suffer the most, there is a disconnect with the community engagement, what the community needs.” – Gabi Cole
- 01:47 Gabi’s three aspects of herself that relate to her work as a disability and diversity advocate
- 03:19 Accessibility to fitness in low-income areas
- 07:02 The impact of quality and affordability on fitness access
- 11:49 The impact of stress on health and how to reduce stress
- 17:43 Improving body image
- 20:20 Maintaining fitness with a chronic illness
- 25:50 How to help your community and advocate
- 29:52 Gabi’s hope for the future of healthcare
- Some of the issues around lack of physical exercise in low-income communities are a social issue that stems from affordability and quality programming. For effective physical activity to be implemented there needs to be space for all its participants, enough staff, and facilities that are usable.
- Physical exercise is just one of the many components to living a healthy lifestyle. Being well rested, promoting positive mental health, and eating nutritious meals also are necessary to maintain your health.
- Our bodies and the conditions our bodies face change daily. Maintaining physical fitness is a lifetime process that will change and shift over time.
- If you are trying to incorporate fitness into your lifestyle, start with small and attainable goals that work for your lifestyle and schedule. For example, I carry weights with me back and forth to the restroom.
- If you are considering bringing fitness programs to underserved communities consider the cultural needs of the residents before implementing fitness programs. Getting the perspectives of what future participants want is key to engagement.
- If you are a parent promoting a healthy lifestyle for your kids through physically moving together and showing them the value of fitness will allow your children to learn from an early age.
- If doing physical exercise alone feels difficult for you, try getting in walking, running, or training group together. Holding one another accountable can promote more effective change.
Resources Mentioned in the Episode
Some of the games Tinu mentioned that she plays on her VR headset:
Website: Fit and Food Connection
Facebook: Fit and Food Connection
Free fitness options:
Youtube Channels like:
- The Body Coach TV and other Youtube Creators
- POPSUGAR Fitness
- Yoga with Adriene
- More workout apps
Information on Family Fitness from HealthyChildren.org
Tips for getting into fitness for individuals with chronic illnesses
Apps with free meditation:
About Gabi Cole
Gabi was born and raised in North St. Louis City, Missouri. She moved to Chicago after high school to study Political Science and Sociology at DePaul University. She later returned and obtained a Master of Science in Non-Profit Management from Fontbonne University. She is currently a Nonprofit Executive, consultant and Adjunct Professor.
Her passion for human services and overall wellness drove her to research and develop a local wellness nonprofit program established in 2012 for underserved families in the St. Louis area. Because of this, she has exceptional leadership experience with racial equity and anti-racism work, creating and leading successful programs, direct practice with vulnerable families, public relations, organizational planning. Her honesty as a community health leader, great educator, and professional work has humbled her viewpoint in working with at-risk communities.
She believes that social and community organizations should be mission-driven and stay true to their values. Gabi is a member of the American Public Health Association and has been recognized for several outstanding leadership and fundraising awards. Gabi is married with two children and resides in North Saint Louis City.
[00:00:06] Gabi: There are a variety of programs in our underserved communities. However, they’re at capacity or there’s a disconnect between the community being served and the program leaders, the local officials or the executive directors or the investors. There needs to be more community engagement. When we think about physical exercise, and the lack thereof in our communities that suffer the most, there is a disconnect with the community engagement, what the community needs.
[00:00:36] Tinu (Recorded): Hello, and welcome to Health in the Margins. Health in the Margins is a podcast that hosts conversations between experts and community members to investigate disparities, and uncover solutions, related to diversity and disability in healthcare. I’m your host, Tinu Abayomi-Paul.
[00:00:55] [Music Ends]
[00:00:55] Today, we’ll be speaking with Gabi Cole, the co-founder and executive director of Fit and Food Connection. Fit and Food Connection is a St. Louis based organization focused on offering people, living in food and fitness deserts, access to free nutritious food, physical activities, educational workshops, and personal coaching to encourage and support healthy living.
[00:01:17] In our conversation, Gabi will elaborate specifically on disparities related to fitness, why underserved communities have less access to fitness and fitness education, the impact potential of community engagement when promoting health and exercise in these communities, and tips for how to promote a healthy, active lifestyle within families, both individually and as a unit.
[00:01:43] Tinu (Recorded): Welcome to Gabi Cole.
[00:01:47] [Music Ends]
[00:01:47] Tinu: Hi, Gabi, thank you for joining us.
[00:01:50] Gabi: Thank you for having me.
[00:01:52] Tinu: We all have a variety of aspects that make up who we are in the world, as we present ourselves. If you had to distill that down into three major identities out of all the crossing intersectional identities that you have, what would they be, and how do they relate to your work as a disability and diversity advocate?
[00:02:10] Gabi: That is a greatly phrased question to get to know me a little bit better. I’m going to say I’m black American of African descent, I’m a mother and I am a disruptor. I am many things; however, these three identities really relate to my work is so many ways.
[00:02:26] I am an advocate for our most vulnerable communities – they happen to be black and brown people. I love to give back. I love showing up in a manner that challenges our systems and helps to see a better future for my children. Though, I’m like all these other things, when I think about me being a mother, I have a responsibility to a generation of people, little people, that I hope to see carry the work and ideologies of giving back into the future.
[00:02:54] Tinu: I love that you referred to kids as people. I’m always trying to tell people that children are people they’re not just like mini accessorized versions of us, they’re their own separate people. And we have to really look at them as having their own personalities and ideas and preferences. And I think that helps us when we’re looking to teach them things.
[00:03:15] And one of the things that we want to teach them of course is fitness. And I’m thinking back to my own life and realizing that fitness, at least in American culture, it can be so expensive to try to get into a class or try to get assistance becoming fit. I was wondering how that ties into the issue around lack of fitness and exercise and why it tends to be prevalent in lower income households or underserved communities. I’m wondering where the issue is coming from and whether it has to do with economics?
[00:03:49] Gabi: From my experience, what I’ve seen in my community, because like, yes, I am fortunate that my kids have a two-family household, I have my family support. A lot of people do not have that support and that resource, and so I have seen a lot of things living in this space, but not suffering because of that.
[00:04:08] Some of the main issues around lack of physical exercise, underserved communities, low-income households is the super intricate social issue that stems from a lot of things: affordability, quality programming, the investment of these programs, right?
[00:04:22] So when you’re in underserved and low-income communities, you cannot bring a fancy gym, or an expensive facility, or program, or initiative to this community. It has to be an investment in a philanthropic way to the community so that people can have that affordability and access.
[00:04:39] I also have seen like culturally connected, right? Making sure that what we are putting out there for our communities that are underserved and have low-income households is there’s a connectedness to the physical exercise programs. There are a variety of programs in our underserved communities. However, they’re at capacity or there’s a disconnect between the community being served and the program leaders or the local officials or the executive directors or the investors. There needs to be more community engagement.
[00:05:11] When we think about physical exercise, and the lack thereof in our communities that suffer the most, there is a disconnect with the community engagement, what the community needs. How can we get from point A to B? I think there are several ways. Community engagement is oftentimes left out of the development of bringing physical exercise, activities or initiatives into these communities.
[00:05:34] Have you ever just looked up and then there’s the new store in your community? You’re like, “Oh, where’d this come from”, right? [Laughs] Like, no one said we needed this. Like, I didn’t know about this. And that is what happens in our communities oftentimes. We have like this random convenience store or…
[00:05:50] Tinu: … hairdresser, liquor store…
[00:05:51] Gabi: [Laughs] The community is like, “where did this come from”? And so that disconnect causes so many issues. Either when programs are brought into the community, they’re not being fully utilized because people do not have the proper knowledge and understanding of what’s happening in their community, affordability, or the program itself is at capacity.
[00:06:09] There’s little to no staff. They need to upgrade the building. The roof’s leaking. Like there are so many intricate issues into like the lack of physical exercise in our communities and why black and brown people or low-income households can’t and then just don’t take advantage of physical exercise. That it’s some of the issue. That is the main problem that I’ve seen.
[00:06:32] I think it can get very technical, right? Like transportation and like access and quality. But for me, I think that those are the main things that hinder this notion of why people in underserved communities and lower income households aren’t out exercising. Why aren’t they utilizing the YMCA’s and the other group organizations and programs that make physical exercise their components? And it has to do with that community engagement piece, and affordability and the quality of programming.
[00:07:02] Tinu: I also wondered about something else that didn’t quite make sense to me because I mean, I’ve had times in my life that I’ve lived in areas where, because I had a lower income or because I just didn’t have the resources to live in a different place. And I noticed for myself, and for some of my neighbors, or some of my friends, who were still in that situation that you wake up early and then you have to walk really far for maybe a mile or two miles to get to your bus stop. Then you’re on your bus stop, you’ve got to transfer, and you have to walk more. And then the same thing when you’re coming back home.
[00:07:37] So not only are you walking long distances, but also taking a lot of your time. So, I’m wondering, first of all, is that time a factor in why people are not getting the physical education and fitness that they should be getting. And also, if people are walking and having jobs where they’re staying on their feet all the time, why isn’t that helping their fitness situation?
[00:08:05] Gabi: I want to dig a little bit deeper into terms that aren’t talked about often, which was access and quality. So, when we think about access, we think about, like you say, transportation walking from here to there and everywhere. And then we think about time management. Those are the two things when I think about access, like we do not have the time to travel here today or just to go out to workout.
[00:08:25] But though we are, you know, walking and we are taking the bus, it’s two-fold in you see that things like that don’t work because you have to have so many components to your wellbeing outside of physical exercise. For me, especially my body type and what I’ve learned about myself, I can eat great, I can eliminate things from my diet, but like I need rest and I need to be moving. I won’t lose pounds, or I won’t feel great unless I’m doing those two things.
[00:08:50] So, there are other components to that lifestyle change and being healthy. Like if you are upset because you will have to walk here and there and miss the bus and spend your money just to get to work, to be on your feet all day, you’re still tired. That wasn’t the physical exercise and the movement that’s helping your mental health, right? And so, I think that is a whole ‘nother conversation about holistic wellness, which is really what I’m about.
[00:09:14] And then I’ll talk about quality programming. Oftentimes you see people in the community that they want to help, people want to help. And you bring things to the community because you see there’s a need, but it’s not culturally fit. So, we do things.
[00:09:29] We bring things to communities that we think that they need without like talking to them. Without getting their perspective. Like, “what do you want to see as far as working out? What do you want to do? You want to walk? Do you want to jump rope? Do you want to do something with your kids? Do you like doing these runs or do you know how to use these machines that they put in your buildings?”
[00:09:46] So like, things like that. I think having that culturally fit component makes the quality of a program beneficial to that population. Driven by the community members, meet people where they are programs and initiatives, right? So, getting away from the one size fits all notion. I’ve had so many trainers do the same thing they do with me they did with the last person that came in – two different phases in our lives. We had two different genetic makeups.
[00:10:08] We need to be able to work with our underserved and vulnerable populations in a manner that we understand that mental health is going to be an issue, right? Because there’s poverty, there’s violence. There’s a lot of things happening to our people that isn’t seen outside of you going to a gym, right? So, you get to the gym, how are you going to meet me where I am? Like, can we make small goals? All I have access to is a corner store and a McDonald’s. How can I do my workout program in conjunction with the things that I have access to.
[00:10:39] We’ve had to, as wellness professionals, as fitness experts, as advocates for people in this community, we have to get out of the mindset that there’s just one way to do it. That’s just ridiculous. It’s not. We have to meet people where they are and make our programs and initiatives fid that.
[00:10:55] Tinu: I learned about myself that the two things that I absolutely have to have are sleep and weights. If I don’t incorporate those two things, it doesn’t matter how well I eat, it doesn’t matter how much walking I do. It doesn’t matter how much cardio I do. But if I do get the right amount of sleep and I do incorporate some form of, even if it’s just a little bit of weightlifting or carrying things from one point to another point, I do so much better with keeping my body at a reasonable size. I just feel so much better in general. It’s so helpful.
[00:11:31] I have problems with sleep, so it’s very complicated for me, but when I can get good sleep, everything else seems to fall into place better. So I’m glad that you brought up sleeping in those other things and how there’s not a one size fits all answer to fitness. Otherwise we would all have similar bodies, which we don’t.
[00:11:49] Gabi: And we wouldn’t be in the crisis we are in. When you brought that up, about just some like different ways where we can use our bodies to get the best benefit. And so, you said weights, sleep. Thing about you needing those things – that tells me as a wellness person, that you’re a stressor.
[00:12:07] When we stress our body releases cortisol, and that just keeps the fat there, that keeps that stubborn weight in your arms, and your tummy, your sides, your back, your thighs. It just keeps it there and a lot of people, a lot of curvier people, not all, some smaller people as well, and whatever that looks like.
[00:12:26] But a lot of curvier people tend to struggle with that weight loss in those areas. And it’s because of the stress and not sleeping well. You don’t have a mindfulness aspect to your daily life. Journal, let it out, release, talk to someone, go outside, get some fresh air. I garden a lot with my weights on. [Laughs] With my little wristlets and like get that energy, get that sunlight and get that outdoor experience to help with my mindset, because it will help me sleep better.
[00:12:50] You were absolutely right about some of us needing to have sleep in some way and strength training with our workouts. So, thank you for bringing that component up.
[00:12:59] Tinu: That is fascinating that you can figure that out from what information that I told you, because yes, stress is big in my life. For the last, I would say 15 years at the least, I’ve had huge stressors in my life.
[00:13:12] And as the stress has gone down, I have become healthier in several ways, including mental health. That just fascinates me that you can figure that out from just those two things. Wow.
[00:13:23] Gabi: Can you think about all the people and all the families and childhood obesity in our families and mothers just are struggling with weight loss in underserved communities, because of the lack of access to physical exercise that fits their lifestyle, healthy food, good sleep, good rest. The worrying like this is the problem. This is the problem.
[00:13:45] Tinu: I’m thinking back to my own life and realizing that there’s this expectation for me to be a certain way as far as fitness goes, but not really any lessons about how to be fit. So, I’m wondering what should mothers be teaching their children, or any children really, about being fit? What should fitness mean in a family context?
[00:14:10] Gabi: I do like that we brought up children and we are thinking about like how we grew up in the space in what does it look like to be healthy? What does it look like to be fit?
[00:14:24] It all boils down to wellbeing. It all boils down to physical movement and exercise. You don’t have to be this physically, like in appearance, beautiful person that’s toned. It’s not about that. Those things are great, but it’s about moving, right? And mobility and being able to bend and use your body in the way that it’s built for.
[00:14:44] When I think about mothers and that time restraint in this new way of the world when you bring children into this space, having your children a part of your working out, your movement, your exercise is something that I think we can all easily adapt to and incorporate into our lives, in our days. But making it as a part of a lifestyle versus this notion and this norm that we’ve seen in our marketing and media, in our paths, and our way of life, what would beauty and physical fitness and being fit is, and just kind of like tearing it down and starting where you are and bringing your kids into the space.
[00:15:22] Like, how can we move together as a family? How can we go for a walk? How can we step outside? How can we stretch? How can we get our heart rate up and use our bodies in the way that they were made for? So, I think it’s just starting small and being comfortable with yourselves and getting your children to be in that space as well.
[00:15:40] Tinu: I love that you said doing it with them and not just kind of having them be fit and just telling them to be fit because kids do what they see you doing and not what you just say to do. I’ve learned that the hard way with our two sets of twins.
[00:15:57] Gabi: Two sets of twins?!
[00:15:59] Tinu: Yes. I co-parent with my sister. She’s the one who did this to us. [Laughs] She did a wonderful thing to us, but yeah, she had two sets of twins back-to-back. So, we are outnumbered and surrounded. Yes. [Laughs]
[00:16:13] Gabi: I love it, that’s beautiful.
[00:16:15] Tinu: It’s wonderful. It’s a blessing. It really is. I just learned so much. We’ve been together ever since she had them. The only thing is, I don’t know what I would do with just one kid anymore. [Laughs]
[00:16:26] Gabi: You can’t go back. I literally have no idea what it’s like to be without my children. Like it is the strangest philosophy and thought process. It blows my mind.
[00:16:35] Tinu: It is a trip. I don’t know what I’m going to do when they’re all in high school or college. And I’m supposed to sit there by myself doing what?
[00:16:42] Gabi: Do not get me started. [Laughs]
[00:16:44] Tinu: [Laughs] But yeah, for the younger ones I got this VR machine to try to trick myself into exercising more, and I was able to trick them into exercising more because I was tricking myself and it turned out to be a lot of fun. And I got a lot more movement going, so I did learn. That was part of my learning process with learning that they will do what they see you doing and not necessarily what you say.
[00:17:07] Gabi: Yes, because they’re learning too, right? And they are at a phase in their lives where they are growing and constantly manipulating their thoughts and ideas based on their surroundings. And so if you were in their space and you are moving and you’re being active and you are outdoors and you are being creative with how you work out, whether it’s on a VR or it is on another type of game system, or you’re out in a garden, or you’re just outside on the front porch, taking a walk, or jumping some rope – whatever that looks like for your family, and in your environment, it is super important to do it as a unit.
[00:17:41] Tinu: That is a great lesson. I was thinking earlier about fatphobia – how it relates to the way African descended bodies present. Growing up, I had this idea of fitness where it looks a certain way, the images that we get from television, where everybody is rail thin, and their bone structures a certain way. I wonder sometimes, especially with young girls, how do you teach them how to be fit, but unlearn them that they have to have this impossible image of themselves because this idea of rail thin, possibly unhealthy thinness, has only been around since the sixties or seventies.
[00:18:25] Gabi: We’re still trying to tackle it. It is 2022 and we are still having these conversations about our bodies. What does it mean to be physically in shape, and fit, and beautiful? From what I’ve seen in my experience, it is about what is within, having that philosophy in our households, in your messaging and your communication, in your community, whatever that looks like.
[00:18:46] Tinu: Yeah.
[00:18:47] Gabi: What you feel within is what should be present, right? If you are confident, if you feel good, if you wake up and you’re not cranky, and your blood pressure is in a good space, and you don’t have chronic illness and disease because you’re moving, you’re physically active and you’re taking care of yourself from within.
[00:19:05] Being comfortable with yourself is top priority. And that means you have to feel good in your heart and your spirit. And that takes getting some fresh air, going for a walk, being outdoors, being with a friend, calling a family member up, and just having those conversations of what that looks like for you.
[00:19:21] And it’s all different for everyone, right? Of course, we want to be at a healthy weight for our organs and our body parts to function appropriately. And that takes time. That doesn’t mean that you’re less than, or you’re not healthy, or you’re whatever this connotation of being physically fit means in our society is something that we have to uncondition ourselves to believe about who we are inside.
[00:19:44] And I think once we start with that confidence, which is super important and when you talk about physical exercise and programs in underserved communities, it is a mindset shift, working with the community to feel empowered and feel good about ourselves and others in a way that we are taking what we have access to, and we’re getting outside. We’re moving on, we’re cleaning up. We are working with our families and being active, even though we may not be the prettiest in mainstreams or to the next person, but we’re beautiful to ourselves and we do good work, and we feel good about it.
[00:20:18] Tinu: That is interesting, an interesting answer, because you mentioned chronic illness. There’s several issues that come up with chronic illness that kind of conflict with the idea of exercise as fitness, but there are things that some people who have problems when they are trying to exercise can do to be fit. Are there things that you recommend for people who have that issue?
[00:20:42] Like I have fibro, I don’t have the problem that most people do when they exercise, and they become exhausted and more exercise makes it even worse. I can do yoga and different things like that, but do you have recommendations for people who have that issue?
[00:20:56] Gabi: So, I think when it comes to your body type and how you feel when you get to move and exercise, it is an ongoing, lifetime process, right? You are figuring out your body every single day and what works. And so, for me, I think trying a variety of things, right? Like what you think may exhaust you may actually make you feel great. And what you think may make you feel good may actually agitate whatever chronic illness or concern you are having with your body.
[00:21:24] For me, journaling helped me a lot. It really helped me get healthy and shift my mindset. I got postpartum preeclampsia with my second child, my daughter. And that is when you have a high level of protein in your blood stream. And so, your blood pressure’s up, you’re prone to seizures, blindness, and just all the things. It usually happens during pregnancy, and they take the baby early. But it happened to me a week after I had her, my blood pressure just shot up, right?
[00:21:48] And so we’re like, what is happening? Why are we starting to see like postpartum preeclampsia among black and brown women after they have their babies? There’s not a lot of information out there because this thing is just happening. So, what helped me was journaling. I started to literally write down every single thing I put into my body from makeup, to vitamins, to medicine, to liquids, to exercise, anything, my thoughts.
[00:22:13] Just journaling so much to the point where it’s just like, woo! Everything in my mind is on a sheet of paper. Then I started to incorporate into like, oh, that made me feel really bad that day, or that fluctuated my blood pressure that day, or this makes my head hurt. And so, like being able to pinpoint what is making you feel certain ways and just eliminating that out of your life.
[00:22:32] I used to do hot yoga before I started having children. And now it’s just like, I don’t have time for this. Started back doing hot yoga and started to like monitor myself, right? I learned that I was dehydrated. I learned that my hormones were out of whack. My menstrual cycle was all over the place and I’m like, it’s because I had my last child, like what is happening to me?
[00:22:53] And once I started to identify those issues, I was able to balance my hormones out, figure out what substances and what vitamins or exercises could help me with that. And I have balanced my hormones, my menstrual, my mood, my sleep, my weight, my blood pressure, all just from the journaling and understanding what my body can and cannot handle and going about it that way.
[00:23:16] I’m still journaling to this day because I still have things that I’m trying to figure out how to answer that me seeing my doctor one time a year, isn’t going to give me the answer, right? And doing some blood tests because it just fluctuates and changes so much. Being able to like write down and really like become one with yourself is so important in your process for your lifestyle and understanding what physical exercise can support you in your journey.
[00:23:39] Tinu: That is a great answer. And I wasn’t expecting that. And the reason is because I went through something similar. It wasn’t childbirth. I don’t have any biological children, but in one of the illnesses I had, I couldn’t figure out, and the doctor couldn’t figure out, what was making me feel a certain way. So, I just started tracking everything and then that’s how I figured it out. But I didn’t use journaling, which I love to journal. And instead, I just put everything on spreadsheets. So, it’s just so fascinating that you said journaling, because that would have made a lot of the process easier for me. So, I’m going to try that.
[00:24:15] Gabi: You should definitely try that and then, like you said, you do yoga – there’s so many different forms of yoga. There’s so many different forms of meditation and mindfulness that you should really take a look into to help with just the beginning processes and starting process of becoming connected to yourself.
[00:24:31] And then that’s going to get you the energy to go for a longer walk. That’s going to give you the energy to do a high interval training course where you are lifting weights, but you’re doing them at short intervals and time. You walk in the fields now, right? Because you know that I cannot eat this food because I’m working out at three o’clock or I need to eat, but I’m going to eat light because I’m about to do this very intense workout and sweat and lose a bunch of calories and salt.
[00:24:57] So that is what the journaling got me to, right? And just started with a pen and a pad and now I’m here. And I’m going to continue to do it. And I encourage other people, especially less fortunate, like you don’t have a nutrition coach. You don’t have the person to take that day-to-day time with you to understand what’s happening to your body when you go to your doctor’s appointments. But like what can you do in your home to really get to know yourself better than your doctor can?
[00:25:21] Tinu: Oh, my goodness. I was definitely thinking I was going to get some great tips today, but I thought it was going to be more about things in avenues that I already knew. I didn’t realize you were going to open up all this new knowledge to me.
[00:25:31] Gabi: [Laughs]
[00:25:31] Tinu: So, I’m very excited right now.
[00:25:33] Gabi: I’m super glad that I’m able to share and spread the word and the knowledge. The word is super important in that, you know something share with your neighbor and we can be across the country, but you can do the same things I’m doing here wherever you are.
[00:25:49] Tinu: That is so needed. What current solutions or resources are available to better serve communities that don’t have, necessarily, the resources that they need in their communities or low-income households?
[00:26:02] Gabi: There is so many ways that people are organizing all around the country in ways that we and our listeners can get a little bit more engaged. The main thing is just start small. Organize in your community or a community that’s nearby, or a place that you’re passionate about organizing your community.
[00:26:20] Get your neighbors together. Form walking groups, advocate to your local officials to invest in community bikes, neighborhood pathways for walking, biking, and skating, build a community garden. There are a lot of organizations all around the world doing these initiatives right there in their own homes, in their own communities, in their cities and states. And it’s making tremendous impact to the families that need it most.
[00:26:42] And it’s just a small investment. It’s about time and a passion and dedication, but it’s a long-term issue that we are battling, and we need people to invest in it with their resources and their financials. We need people to invest that and their time to these initiatives.
[00:26:56] Learn how you can sponsor or invest in children – get into a sports league. My kids do all the things. I mean they swim, play soccer, they play basketball, they do gymnastics, and it keeps them fit and moving and energized. They are happy. And it saddens me when I see my neighbor’s kid and they just, you know, so you’re going to go to basketball with us, right? Like if you’re not changing ten people, like how can you change one person?
[00:27:20] Like do what you can with what you have. Donate to organizations that’s doing the work already. You know YMCA that needs some work done and you know a contractor, or you know someone that can build and repair. I take my husband all around St. Louis to fix up somebody’s roof, to cut someone’s grass, to build a fence for some safety. We are gonna do this together as a community, because that is how things get done is when we get together, and we move together.
[00:27:46] There’s groups here locally and across the world that are doing things that are culturally fit. There’s groups creating trap runs. You see your like 5k, and your 10k, and your marathons – there’s groups doing trap runs in underserved and low-income communities.
[00:28:01] Trap yoga classes: there’s organizations and yoga studios that are providing quality programming on a pay-as-you-can basis with support from local foundations and investors. So, if we can have more of that across the world, I think we can really take what we thought fitness and physical exercise look like and make it more realistic, make it more fit into the community, and better for all of us.
[00:28:24] Tinu: Those are all wonderful, wonderful examples. I love that you talked about walking groups and people doing it together. I remember when I lived in the part of Las Vegas where it wasn’t safe to walk around. All of a sudden it was like, “but that’s my main exercise! What am I goinna do now?” I lived in this teeny tiny studio apartment. I would walk in circles in the living room, just with nervous energy thinking, “Okay so there’s no gym nearby. Like, what am I supposed to do?”
[00:28:51] And eventually the place that I had had cable. So, I was luckily able to watch fitness shows, you know, like I can’t remember the name of the lady, but it came on at noon on ESPN. So, I used to do her workout and then a guy followed her. So, I could do an hour of aerobic exercise in the afternoon from that. But if I had had a group to walk with me, I would have felt so much safer.
[00:29:11] I just love the ideas of communities doing it together and organizing and being able to create solutions where they don’t currently exist. It makes communities safer when we’re doing things together and knowing who each other is. It sounds fabulous. And now I’m starting to feel the ambition of wanting to do that in my community.
[00:29:31] Gabi: I hope I’m getting everyone excited! I’m hope I am. I want you all to figure out what you can, you know, incorporate into your lives and how you can impact communities that need it most by getting people together and rallying people to invest, whether it’s their time or resources to see true change in these communities and help communities come together, pull together, what they have.
[00:29:52] Tinu: As you know, our show is called Health in the Margins – with that in mind, what is a hope that you have for the future of healthcare?
[00:30:00] Gabi: Since most of our conversation was about physical exercise or fitness – when I think back when we have less movement due to lack of quality programming, affordability, and access, we see that our most vulnerable communities are prone to chronic disease and illness, higher financial burden because of medical bills and medicine prices that are passed down to generations to come, even my generation. My hope is that we all can make the health and wellbeing of humanity a priority, or at least a component of our daily lives so it is a societal norm for everyone. We have to get the children and the youth ready for the future and be able to advocate and take care of each other.
[00:30:42] Tinu: I believe that’s a beautiful, beautiful hope. I’d like to see that too. Thank you so much for coming Gabi. This was incredible.
[00:30:49] Gabi: Thank you for having me.
[00:30:54] Tinu (Recorded): Thank you for joining my conversation with Gabi Cole. She shared so many ways to increase community and family engagement and physical fitness. Every person, family, and community is different. So, it’s important to find solutions that resonate for you in your communities.
[00:31:10] I found for me, I needed something fun that I would look forward to in order to work out consistently. So, I thought, what is something fun I would factor into my schedule, no matter what? Video games! I spoke a little in the conversation about using my virtual reality headset to incorporate physical fitness into my family’s lifestyle. You may hear people refer to virtual reality as VR for short. I had gotten to a point where I knew I needed to do some form of exercise, but I didn’t know how to cram it into my schedule as a disabled person with energy and fatigue issues.
[00:31:49] My schedule was incredibly full with a variety of work and family responsibilities, which made it difficult to get out on regular walks. I would even go as far as to fall asleep in my fitness clothes to make sure I got exercise in. But even then, something would happen in the morning and I wouldn’t be able to take the walk I had previously intended to take.
[00:32:13] The VR headset has a ton of free fitness programs to choose from that mesh video games with physical activity, like VZfit, which uses Google Street view and you move your arms and legs to move you through different landscapes from all over the world. Another I love is called Art Smash, where you smash all of this art and you try to beat your last high score. I also really like Beat Saber, which is where you hit notes with your arms or legs to the beat of the song being played.
[00:32:44] During the lockdown my kids saw me playing on my VR headset and got curious about using it themselves. They each have their own favorite games like boxing and Beat Saber. It’s really become a great way for my family to be entertained while also getting their exercise.
[00:33:01] Despite the perception of VR headset pricing, I was able to buy mine used off of a friend, which was a small investment in the grand scheme of finances for a very large, healthy payout. Find out what makes you excited to move. And if you don’t know yet, that’s okay. Maybe it’s a walking group or yoga or using VR for exercise like me.
[00:33:26] The takeaway learnings from this episode are:
[00:33:30] 1) Some of the issues around lack of physical exercise in low-income communities are a social issue that stems from affordability and quality programming. For effective physical activity to be implemented there needs to be space for all its participants, enough staff, and facilities that are usable.
[00:33:52] 2) Physical exercise is just one of the many components to living a healthy lifestyle. Being well rested, promoting positive mental health, and eating nutritious meals also are necessary to maintain your health.
[00:34:08] 3) Our bodies and the conditions our bodies face change daily. Maintaining physical fitness is a lifetime process that will change and shift over time.
[00:34:21] The actionable tips from this episode are:
[00:34:24] 1) If you are trying to incorporate fitness into your lifestyle, start with small and attainable goals that work for your lifestyle and schedule. For example, I carry weights with me back and forth to the restroom.
[00:34:38] 2) If you are considering bringing fitness programs to underserved communities consider the cultural needs of the residents before implementing fitness programs. Getting the perspectives of what future participants want is key to engagement.
[00:34:56] 3) If you are a parent promoting a healthy lifestyle for your kids through physically moving together and showing them the value of fitness will allow your children to learn from an early age.
[00:35:11] 4) If doing physical exercise alone feels difficult for you, try getting in walking, running, or training group together. Holding one another accountable can promote more effective change.
[00:35:25] For more information on Gabi and Fit and Food Connection check out our show notes.
[00:35:32] Every episode of Health in the Margins has a page on empoweredus.org, where you can find the extended show notes, including tips and takeaways, transcripts and relevant resource links.
[00:35:47] If you would like to share your own tips related to this topic, or connect with us, visit the Empowered Us contact page, or reach out to us on our social channels.
[00:35:58] Health in the Margins is an Empowered Us original presented by Good Days, hosted by me, Tinu Abayomi-Paul. Be sure to rate and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts.
[00:36:11] As we move from the margins to the center, I wish you the best possible health for your mind, body and soul. You are worthy of the best. And please remember you do not need to earn sleep or rest.
[00:36:33] [Music Ends]
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