Harlem HIIT Aims To Attack Health Disparities In The Black Community

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Recognizing the health disparity that exists in the black community, two Harlem entrepreneurs have found a way to make fitness accessible by making it both convenient and affordable. Fitness professionals Jahkeen Washington and Thomas Boatswain have teamed up to launch Harlem HIIT and have quickly impacted the fitness scene in their neighborhood.

With classes starting at just $10 each, the duo has created short and effective workouts based on the HIIT philosophy. HIIT is high-intensity interval training. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines HIIT as “repeated bouts of high-intensity effort followed by varied recovery times.”

ACSM recommends that adults perform a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days per week or 20 minutes of higher-intensity exercise three days per week. The latter is more effective and efficient when people are pressed for time. Taking a Harlem HIIT class makes it possible to get a workout in and still complete required daily activities including work, school, errands, and family obligations.

A recent report released by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention earlier in 2017 revealed that while the overall death rate for black people has declined by about 25 percent in recent years, black people are expected to die four years sooner than whites from diseases like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Moving away from the slave diet and exercising more can greatly impact black life expectancy. Harlem HIIT is doing their part to make this shift a reality.

Woman exercising on street
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“A lot of people who are uptown and are really into fitness and want to change their lives and become more active can’t really afford to pay [for classes],” Jahkeen told The Grio. “We thought that by bringing something that is quality and affordable to our communities we would bridge the gap and give everyone in the community an opportunity to train hard, train smart, and train together.”

But the duo isn’t stopping there. Harlem HIIT has offered free youth fitness classes, hosted fundraising events for breast cancer, and HIV/AIDS research, and used their platform to raise awareness for health and wellness issues that plague black communities. These fitness enthusiasts are creating an urban fitness model that they hope to duplicate across the country.

Harlem HIIT classes focus on strength and conditioning, boosting metabolism, fat burning, full-body workouts, boxing, and more. Each class boasts less than 25 participants and are offered both before and after work. Keeping with the HIIT philosophy, they last no more than 75 minutes in duration. Washington and Boatswain have made scheduling a class simple and easy through their online platform. Users simply need to create an account and choose from available classes on the weekly schedule.