Bringing exercise and nutrition awareness to 113 black men throughout the metro District of Columbia area including Maryland and Virginia, AARP DC launched the Black Men’s Fitness Challenge. The 12-week program consisted of teams from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Mu Lambda Chapter; Washington (DC) Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Omega Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and 100 Black Men of Greater Washington. The men competed through their individual teams to see who could lose the most stomach inches during the program. The men were guided in the fitness competition by local fitness expert Yohnnie Shambourger, a former Mr. Universe and founder of Yohnnex Sports, Inc. (YSI) located in the Washington, DC metro area.
The Black Men’s Fitness Challenge was a part of AARP’s “Life Reimagined” philosophy that has a goal of supporting individuals to pursue a passion or take a new direction in life. To lead the fitness challenge participants toward success, AARP and Shambourger collaborated on a website where the men were able to create a personal profile. The website contained videos about nutrition, sample exercise workouts, and sample menus. Measuring tapes and pedometers were distributed to track how each man did during the challenge. These tools used throughout the challenge followed the “Life Reimagined” approach offering the men a flexible, step-by-step guide to prepare for the change they wanted see.
The team results were announced at an awards luncheon held in downtown DC in December. Based on the number of stomach inches lost, each time received a contribution to donate to their favorite youth or health-related charity. Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc. came out on top having lost the most stomach inches. The Alphas received $2,500 toward their favorite charity. Second place winner was Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc., 100 Black Men of Washington came in third and Omega Psi Phi came in fourth place.
Congratulating the teams during the 12-week wrap-up luncheon was Hop Backus, AARP EVP of States & Communities, Rawle Andrews, Mideast Regional Vice President and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, and Louis Davis, Jr., AARP DC State Director.
“This12-week fitness challenge was a way for us to live AARP’s mission of enhancing the quality of life for all of us as we age,” said Davis during the luncheon. “We know about the high incidence of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes among African Americans. This program allowed us to raise awareness about living a healthy lifestyle for black men who are 40-plus years.”
Proudly telling of his accomplishments through the fitness challenge, was 53-year-old Eddie Neal who showed off the additional holes he had to put in his leather belt.
“I had been playing basketball once a week, so I thought I was in perfect health. Then I measured my waist and my wife recorded the numbers. I also looked at pictures and saw how my stomach was protruding,” said Neal who lost 26 pounds as a member of the winning Alpha Phi Alpha team. “After seeing those facts before my eyes, I was really thankful to join the challenge. My immediate family, as well as my fraternity brothers, supported me to get in better shape. My wife has joined me at the health club and we work together in making better food choices at the grocery store.”
Max Maurice, a Clinical Psychologist at DC’s Dunbar High School represented Kappa Alpha Psi at the luncheon. He spoke about encouraging his fraternity brothers to pursue wellness.
“I am the fitness and wellness person for my chapter. I know that for African American men stress and how we eat affect life expectancy. The fitness challenge provided another opportunity to motivate the men in my chapter,” said Maurice who is 48-years-old. “My family has a diabetic history which also motivated me to be a part of the challenge. I did my first triathlon while on the fitness challenge which included running, swimming and biking. I told my fraternity brothers, that this is a lifestyle change. It’s how you live, sleep and breathe everyday”
As a long-time fitness trainer, Shambourger was committed to grabbing the attention of the men who signed up for the fitness challenge.
“I have noticed that as men get older and become more successful, their health takes a back seat. I wondered how we could change this because I know it can be difficult to get men to take charge of their personal health.” said Shambourger during the recognition luncheon. “These men shifted their consciousness about how they wanted to live. That’s why they made significant progress toward their fitness goals.”
“All of these men are winners,” continued Shambourger. “They learned valuable lessons about themselves that will keep them healthy and productive for years to come.”
AARP DC and Shambourger are now developing the next phase of the fitness challenge to keep the four organizations involved and to bring in more men into the program. (Photo credit: AARP DC)