The Health Benefits of Venturing Outdoors
It’s June 2020 and by now we have all seen the reports that Black Folks and black communities are being ravaged by COVID-19. Not all organizations or states are breaking COVID-19 contraction and death rate data down by race but, for those states who are, a disturbing trend is being revealed. Where data is readily available, it shows that Black Folks are much more likely to be hospitalized with complications from the virus and are exponentially more likely to die from Coronavirus. In southern states like Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina, contraction rates are over 35% and death rates for Black Folks is over 50% despite only representing a small portion of a state’s overall population.
So many Black Folks have lost loved ones to COVID-19 already or have friends or family currently in intensive care fighting for their lives. By analyzing the data and examining history, we can increase preventative measures and implement safety measures to help protect our communities.
Why are the hospitalization and death rates so high?
There are numerous factors at play including:
- Medical conditions that disproportionately affect Black Folks
- Limited or no access to preventative medical care
- Rural lifestyles with no hospitals or extremely limited occupancy and funding
- Close living spaces in urban environments which hinders efforts to safe distance
- Limited or no access to healthy food, pure water, and clean air
- Limited or no access to recreational facilities or green spaces
- Jobs deemed essential that increase the likelihood of exposure
“When they do get infected, their underlying medical conditions – the diabetes, the hypertension, the asthma – those are the kind of things that wind them up in the ICU and ultimately give them a higher death rate.” ANTHONY FAUCI
While this pandemic still ravages Americans – specifically minorities and ethnic communities – and death rates exceed 107,000, thousands and thousands of people are taking to the streets to protest police brutality and widespread systemic racism demanding the dismantling of a broken system. Many marchers have first-hand experience of police brutality and raw nerves from a broken healthcare system resulting in the loss of loved ones. Denying proper medical help has been a fundamental building block for institutional racism from the beginning. Historically, Black Folks are talked over during medical examinations, are used as guinea pigs in unethical medical studies, or are outright denied the ability to seek medical help at all. This systematic abuse of Black Folks has led to justified skepticism and a general distrust of medical professionals because of the implicit bias of the medical community.
With every step and march in solidarity, the odds of exposure to and contracting COVID-19 increases. Being educated on the preexisting racial health disparities that affect Black Folks means you can more easily understand how COVID-19 could affect you and if you are at risk of developing serious complications if you do contract the Coronavirus. There are also simple ways to help improve your overall health and the health of family members all while spending quality time together.
For Your Health
Do you know the most prominent health issues for black folks? Maybe they’ve been drilled into your head by your mom or dad. Maybe you know someone who could be in better health or have one of these issues yourself. For a refresher, here’s a quick list of the most common health issues for Black Folks according to the CDC:
- High Blood Pressure (also known as Hypertension)
- Heart Disease
- Obesity (effects ⅓ of the entire US population)
- Smoking (contributing to heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc…)
- Mental Illness
- Substance Abuse
Venturing out into nature has shown to be extremely helpful in preventing or decreasing obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and improving mental wellbeing. If going outside can do all that, why not go on a hike??
The CDC has extensive data on the health and wellness of the US as a whole but also uses these statistics to identify specific health commonalities within races or ethnicities. This better enables each distinct group to understand and listen to their own bodies, helps scientists conduct more specific research to provide specialized treatments, and will also help you understand what you can do to keep you and your family in the best of health.
Each race and ethnicity has a unique set of health related issues that are most common within each community. By understanding these differences and the most common health issues, preventative measures can be taken to maintain a healthy lifestyle (and keep doctors at bay).
Various studies show that many factors impact the health and wellness of Black and other ethnic communities including (but not limited to) income, access to quality education, access to healthcare, and access to healthy foods. Hell, being able to “afford to get sick” is a luxury most of America doesn’t have and this pandemic has made that glaringly obvious.
There are over 40 million Black Folks in the United States with over 50% living in the Southeast. The percentage of Black Folks in the southeast that have NO leisure time activity ranges from 24 to 47% — some of the highest in the country. Similarly, hispanics and blacks in the southeast are in the bottom 50% in terms of success in neighborhood social cohesion for physical activity behaviors. This (very basic explanation) of CDC findings reveal that black folks aren’t active enough but that’s not for lack of want.
Some additional facts:
* 35% or more adults had obesity in 9 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia).
* The South (33.6%) and the Midwest (33.1%) had the highest prevalence of obesity, followed by the Northeast (28.0%), and the West (26.9%).
* Young adults were half as likely to have obesity as middle-aged adults. Adults aged 18-24 years had the lowest self-reported obesity (18.1%) compared to adults aged 45-54 years who had the highest prevalence (36.9%).
Dr. Fauci recently acknowledged the disparities that blacks have historically faced regarding access to proper medical care:
“Health disparities have always existed for the African American community… [coronavirus is] shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is because, yet again, when you have a situation like the coronavirus, they are suffering disproportionately. We will get over coronavirus, but there will still be health disparities which we really do need to address in the African American community.”
To put it simply, the odds aren’t in our favor but it’s high time we take back control and beat the odds.
To The Trailhead And BEYOND!
Now onto the good news…your health is in your hands! You can beat the odds and improve the statistics by simply taking a walk in nature. We work, go to school, eat, watch TV and so much of these activities happen inside. It is estimated that the average American spends nearly 90% of their time indoors. 90%!!!!!!!! 23 of 24 hours. When do you get your Vitamin D?
“Physical activity fosters normal growth and development, improves overall health, can reduce the risk of various chronic diseases, and can make people feel better, function better, and sleep better. Some health benefits start immediately after activity, and even short bouts of physical activity are beneficial.”
Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between regular physical activity and good health which contributes to the reduction of the conditions above. Increased levels of vitamin D can potentially help fight depression, cancer, and heart attacks. Better air quality helps reduce respiratory infections and decrease the chances of various lung diseases. Being outside can even help your body recover from major surgeries.
And let’s not forget the kiddos. Spending more time outdoors is crucial for their physical and mental development. Outdoor adventures will help them focus on school work, stimulate cognitive development, reduce obesity, and reduce anxieties created by a chaotic world, and will make them pass the F*** out at the end of each night.
Go Explore For Your Health!
Outdoor activities are a great way to get your family, community, and church active and involved with the overall goal of improving the health of and quality of life for all ages. Studies have shown that an active lifestyle will not only benefit you physically but will also drastically improve your mental wellbeing.
State and national parks and forests are relatively low cost vacation options that you and your friends and family can take advantage of during almost any season. There is always somewhere new to explore and something breathtaking to discover. The Southeast has some of the most diverse flora, fauna, and wildlife in the country and it’s a crying shame to let it all go unnoticed.
Being outside is lifegiving. I personally believe that if you are in a funk, 30 minutes outside taking a walk or just focusing on your breathing will bring you right out of it. There is nothing like going on a hike, reaching the top, and taking in a massive breath of fresh, clean air. But spending time outside doesn’t have to be a trek. Many state parks have activities for all levels and all ages. Spending time out in nature is beneficial for every member of your family from the youngest to the oldest.
Fresh air, Vitamin D, trails for walking, running, biking, swimming in lakes and rivers — you can find it all in your backyard. Well, maybe not literally your backyard but pretty dang close. You’ll easily get addicted to adventuring beyond and fully embracing what the South has to offer.
During these #quarantinedayz it’s more important than ever to show a little TLC to yourself.