In our new monthly profile series, Fitbit is seeking to amplify diversity in the world of wellness and fitness by featuring the voices of POC trail-blazers at the helm of these industries—industries that have discredited voices like theirs for too long.
For our May profile, we’re highlighting the incredible work of Ife Obi, founder of The Fit In, a fitness brand and studio with three locations in the historic neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York. We’re excited to share the conversation we had with Ife about what she does as founder of the brand and fitness center, and what it means to be a POC in the fitness industry.
Ife Obi created The Fit In with the goal to provide access to quality health and wellness to underserved communities. It’s the first brand of its kind in Bedford Stuyvesant and all of East Brooklyn, an area long underserved by the health and wellness industry. Its signature classes, which are available at three of its separate locations in Bed-Stuy, are meant to develop a framework for long, strong bodies that can handle current everyday tasks—from carrying groceries or picking up toddlers, to preparing for high-intensity workouts or lifting things.
She also created The Shop at The Fit In, which continues the mission of creating health equity in communities of color by providing access to health and fitness related products in food and health deserts.
“The Shop provides our diverse community with awareness and access to brands that truly believe in health for all,” Obi says. “These brands include our own line of supplements, Back To You by The Fit In, centering the root cause of conditions that impact many women but affect women of color, particularly Black women, at higher rates.”
Keep reading to learn more about The Fit In and how Ife is paving the way for more brands and studios striving to make a difference in their communities.
FITBIT: The Fit In strives to redefine the word “fit” as it currently stands in the fitness world and to be a haven for all people, particularly BIPOC women, to feel represented and comfortable in their own skin. What drew you to this work?
IFE: In my 20-year long career of marketing for major brands, I used fitness, pilates, and strength training specifically, to destress. During this time there was only one image of fitness that I repeatedly saw and it didn’t include anyone that looked like me.
I was eventually badly injured doing a workout and I realized I had to start really learning about this thing called health and fitness. Not just for me and learning what proper training looks like, but so I can ensure that people who look like me are able to benefit and prevent negative health outcomes, like what I and my family historically have had to deal with.
My community and many Black and Brown communities around the nation have some of the highest rates of diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, and more. And these are the communities with the least wellness options. They have the least safe options for movement and the most unhealthy options for food and groceries.
So, I decided I wanted to make an impact with my community and work to change our health statistics.
FITBIT: Are there any changes you’re currently seeing in the fitness industry that give you hope you’ll start seeing more inclusive fitness studios in underserved areas?
IFE: We’re seeing more BIPOC interest in movement certifications. More are interested in learning how to provide wellness to their own community which eventually leads to more BIPOC in positions of leadership and ownership.
I get asked a lot about my formula and how I ensure diversity and inclusion and it’s not something I can just write out. True inclusiveness starts with leadership when you have people in the community as the leaders, then they know what needs to be implemented to make sure spaces are not just diverse but inclusive.
FITBIT: Why, in your view, is it so important for there to be communities like yours that are intended for all and specifically, BIPOC women?
IFE: Culturally there are reasons BIPOC women, particularly Black and Brown women, focus on their health and fitness and lower rates than white women. The research shows that lack of access to safe places to move, lack of self-efficacy, and lack of social and family support are the top reasons. So communities like ours work to eliminate some of those barriers to get more BIPOC women to focus on themselves and their health.
FITBIT: How do you hope to inspire others with The Fit In?
IFE: My hope is that it encourages more people of color to get into fitness and wellness. This includes those who look at fitness as a way into entrepreneurship and a way to support their community. It also includes those who felt that they couldn’t focus on their own health seeing examples in us of people that look like them making time for themselves.
FITBIT: What’s the future look like for The Fit In? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
IFE: I see no end to The Fit In. The Fit In started as one little studio in Bed-Stuy. We’ve expanded to three locations in addition to outdoor and virtual fitness options, because there are more people in our community that we need to serve and because our community needs more options to make sure they find a movement routine they love and can commit to. This is something we want to further expand on as there are communities like ours nationwide.
And because there are so many more areas of wellness that are exclusive toward Black women and Women of Color, there are so many areas we are looking to address. We’ve already launched into the supplement space to tackle health issues that we have to deal with more than our white counterparts, and we will continue to expand in this world of Precision Health. The Fit In is not just a brand tackling inclusivity in fitness—we are tackling the health industry.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.
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