How Fitness Coach Alicia McKenzie Is Raising Awareness About Racial Disparities In Breast Cancer
When it comes to breast cancer, prevention is key. While being vigilant about early detection is vital, lifestyle factors — such as your workout routine — can also help reduce your risk of developing the disease. In fact, among women with high-risk forms of breast cancer (meaning a high risk of recurrence), research suggests that those who do 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise (think: brisk walking) per week may be able to reduce their risk of recurrence by a whopping 55 percent compared to those who don't exercise as often.
Every year, Fit 4 Prevention hosts a series of donation-based workout classes to raise money for KAB. More importantly, this fitness-based initiative creates a community of advocates, survivors, and family members, who inspire each other to take control of their health.
This year, over 150 trainers and workout studios are participating in the campaign by teaching virtual donation-based classes — including former CrossFit and USA Weightlifting athlete, Alicia McKenzie, C.P.T. (Related: These No-Equipment Boxing Classes Raise Money for Breast Cancer Research)
McKenzie, a mom of four and the founder of wellness platform LiftLikeaMother, is supporting KAB's initiative to educate others on how breast cancer disproportionately affects Black women. While her goal has always been to empower others through fitness, McKenzie's platform focuses on more than just physical health. In addition to prioritizing emotional wellbeing, the trainer encourages her supporters to get involved in social issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement.
Recently, McKenzie found herself diving into health and wellness within the BIPOC community. "I've been educating myself more and more about how Black women are disproportionately affected when it comes to their health," she tells Shape. (Related: How Racism Affects Your Mental Health)
With Breast Cancer Awareness Month on the horizon, McKenzie saw an opportunity to bring light to these disparities by participating in KAB's Fit 4 Prevention campaign. "When it comes to breast cancer, Black women tend to have an increased mortality rate and are treated unjustly because of how our society is structured," she says. "I wanted to use my platform to bring awareness to some of these overlooked issues."
Even though Black and white women get breast cancer at roughly the same rate, the breast cancer death rate was 40 percent higher among Black women compared to the death rate among white women between 2013 and 2017, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS also notes that breast cancer incidence rates are higher in Black women under the age of 40, specifically, compared to white women in the same age group. What's more, "the overall [breast] cancer incidence among African American and Hispanic population has continued to grow" at alarming rates, according to a recent paper exploring racial disparities in breast cancer.
"These stark differences are directly tied to the lack of access to quality healthcare screenings and early detection education currently available to Black women," says McKenzie. (The lack of Black healthcare providers in the U.S. also plays a role in these disparities.)
After doing some research, McKenzie decided that she could make the most impact by taking part in KAB's Fit 4 Prevention campaign. The trainer will be hosting a virtual 45-minute HIIT-based class on October 15 in partnership with the campaign. The class will be donation-based (with a suggested donation of $5; all proceeds go directly to KAB and its affiliated programs), and it can easily be done within the comfort of your home. You'll need a mat, some open space, and dumbbells — but you can easily swap the dumbbells out for household items like cans of soup or wine bottles, notes McKenzie. As for the workout itself, you can look forward to crushing some lunges, glute bridges, overhead presses, and a few core-torching ab exercises. (Related: These Trainers Are Showing How to Use Household Items for a Serious Workout)
McKenzie's goal is to raise at least $1,000 through her class to support KAB's initiative. Through the Fit 4 Prevention campaign, the non-profit aims to raise $1,000,000 in total this year.
"My biggest hope with this campaign is to help people realize that breast cancer affects women of all ages and races," says McKenzie. "By supporting organizations like KAB, not only can we educate women on early detection and prevention, but we can also come one step closer to abolishing the disparities Black women face while fighting this disease every day."