For everyone preparing to yell about “bringing race up for no reason”, let me be clear that this is a fluid discussion on…not necessarily an opinion about. With that said (you sensitive people you), the fitness industry is one that mixes practically every activity that drums up a sweat, and calls it exercise. That would lead you to think that it would be incredibly diverse, right? So it got me thinking, with all the race chatter lately, is the fitness industry (mainstream) a good depiction of fitness fanatics?
Why Race Matters: The Numbers
According to the State of Obesity</a href>, Hispanic Americans have the highest rate of adult obesity in America (as of 2013). When you combine the percentage of overweight and obese individuals, Hispanic Americans are at 77.9% of their population. They are very closely followed by Black Americans at 76.2% (1), Native Americans at around 68%, White Americans at 67.2%, and finally Asian Americans at 42% (1).
These numbers are legitimately astronomical and sad. When you look at the numbers for just women though, it changes to where Black women are the highest at 82%, being trailed by Latino women at 77% and White women at 63%. Which is why female fitness is so incredibly important.
Race Portrayed in Fitness
With insight to the disparities into health and fitness based on race, it only really makes sense that magazine covers would be splashed with faces of those that are most fit, right? But does a lack of diversity on covers lead to a lack of following by those who may need it most? And really, why is there a lack of diversity?
Magazines are sold by one major principle: sex. Even fitness magazines, to women, are on the same plane. You see an amazing physique on the cover and you want that so you pick it up. It is no secret that the majority of sex sells goes for “familiar-to-familiar” meaning that chances are someone would buy a cover with someone they can relate to in some way. This isn’t bad. But it does mean that those who can sell the most covers will probably look like the majority of people reading those fitness magazines. In this case, the statistically fittest group of women. If you stroll through Instagram, the endless shots of beautifully toned, blonde haired, bikini clad, fit chicks is quite honestly…endless. Now don’t get me wrong, Spot Me Girl is 187% supportive of anyone being healthy and strong. But this isn’t to focus on those who are being fit, it is to focus on those promoting fit.
The disparity between minorities on covers can be due to 1 of 3 reasons: there aren’t enough in the business, they aren’t considered as appealing, or those that are able to don’t want to. At the 2015 Arnold Classic, there was at least 1 minority in each top 5 finishings for women. And when you look through social media, there are thousands of competitors and models and pros out there as well. So yes, they are out there. So maybe it’s an appeal thing. We all know Nicole Wilkins</a href> and Erin Stern</a href> from their many covers, which are immensely well deserved. 2nd place Candice Lewis</a href> has never had a magazine cover, nor has 4th Latorya Watts</a href>. But then again, neither has 5th place Ann Titone</a href>. So maybe it is racial appeal, or maybe its just that people love bikini pros much more 🙂
It could all boil down to who even cares to be a model. And ultimately, it may not even matter if there are rarely minorities on covers, since there are minorities on stage.
Should It Matter?
The real question we should be asking though, is should we work to make fitness sites and magazines more diverse to help motivate those who may need it the most? If minorities felt more included in the fitness community, would it encourage more involvement? Does seeing a Native American face make another want to hit the gym? As the editor for Spot Me Girl, I would love to bring more diversity in any way I can because everyone should be celebrated. As Sarah Hipps though, I would love to see more inclusion merely because it means I have a better chance of being a fitness model (although pizza has really been hindering my career). But not seeing a woman of color on a magazine wouldn’t keep me from going to the gym. I checked in with Ripped Goddess</a href> and got her take:
“I do not notice a lack of diversity. It depends on which websites you are looking for. It could be because I follow a lot of trainers and yoga instructors on social media and I purposefully follow all types of women (definition, race, age, location, etc) just so that I get a variety of fitness examples.”