Featured Fitness Fun — 31 May 2011
Black Women and Cycling

A Petition to Black Women
by Cathryn D. Blue, PhD

Black women have a lot of unique struggles. We have to learn to balance our jobs, school, family and our personal health while also dealing with others’ assumptions of how we should handle all of them. At work, we are expected to behave a certain way. At home, we are expected to perform the roles of wife, mother, friend, daughter, and sister with ease and pleasure. Many of us are so engulfed in the methodological personality shifting that takes place in our lives that we often forget about ourselves.

As Black women, we must put forth the effort to lift up our communities, our men and our children. It is almost deemed narcissistic to consider putting our needs ahead of others’ needs. Leaving ourselves at the end of our list of things to do, however, has detrimental effects on our well-being. For example:

* 66% of African American adult women are overweight and 33% are obese—higher percentages than those for White, Hispanic, or Asian/Pacific Islander women.

* It is estimated that 12% of adult women in the United States have a diagnosable clinical depression. This is twice that of men, who represent 6.6% of clinical depression diagnoses. Women are generally more likely to be clinically depressed than men and African Americans are more likely to suffer depression than Whites. Clinical depression increases the occurrence of substance abuse, suicide and inability to function in relationships and at work.

* Due to our unique stressors and struggles with sexism and racism on a daily basis, African American women are more likely to suffer from hypertension, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes than any other group of people in the United States.

As you can see, taking care of ourselves is a must if we desire to be all we can be, even for our loved ones. Cycling is an easy, inexpensive, and fun way to do just that. It is a simple activity to get into because it doesn’t require you to be in excellent physical condition. Cycling can range from being a low impact leisure activity to being a highly intense training mechanism. It also doesn’t require that you have any specific training beyond learning how to ride a bike.

What about those of us who believe that cycling is something that only White people do? Well considering that logic, we can also argue that eating right, seeking professional assistance, pursuing higher education, and landing top paying careers in our respective fields are also “only things that White people do.” There is no such thing as a White standard of living or a Black standard of living. There is only abundant life. We are entitled to that just as much as anyone else.

This is my petition to all the Black women in America. Learn to put yourself FIRST! Cycling is one activity that can help put you on the path of increased mental and physical health. Just get up and get out there!

*statistics and information obtained from: Jones, C. & Shorter-Gooden, K (2003). Shifting. The Double Lives of Black Women in America. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Dr. Cathryn D. Blue is a social/experimental psychologist and consultant for independent artists. Her research interests include racial ideology, time orientation, human cognition, emotion and motivation as predictors of behavior.

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(3) Readers Comments

  1. Thank you for posting this article because it is completely true. I would love to see the day when “minorities”, of all backgrounds, voluntarily choose to make their health their top priority. Shouldn’t it be?

    P.S. What’s with the women sitting down? lol Isn’t that the exact opposite of the message you’re trying to portray?

    Kudos anyway for continuing this necessary dialogue!

  2. I love that you’re advocating cycling. I’m a Black woman who frequently bikes to work and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

    My struggles with this article are the interchangeable use of Black and African American followed by the comparison to White (ness).

    African American is an ethnicity while Black and White are social constructs. Their current usage dilutes your point.

  3. Thank you for suggesting cycling as a fun and effective alternative to other forms of exercise. I started riding a little over a year ago and the benefits are astounding. It so fun to jump on my bike and know that my heart, and the rest of my body, is going to take me where I need to go. I have also discovered little treasures in my community that I would have never seen while riding in a car. Too, I have lost weight and feel more energetic. I’m so sorry I didn’t start earlier. Again, thank you for the article.

    Phunk Goddess of Cycling

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