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New College Hill YEP! Fitness center brings accessible wellness, nutrition to Cincinnati's urban core

Posted: 8:28 PM, Jun 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-15 00:31:21Z

CINCINNATI — Kurt Billups chose the second location for YEP! Fitness deliberately, he said Friday: Beneath the Marlowe Court apartment building, which houses seniors in its 20 apartments, in College Hill, where the population was about 63% black at last census.

Both groups — black Americans and seniors, and particularly black seniors — face elevated health challenges they often lack the resources to easily tackle.

“We want to offer things that we know the community needs to be concerned with and a lot of people in the community are concerned about, but they don’t have the professionals on hand to take care of that stuff,” Billups said.

YEP!, which stands for Your Exercise Platform, has weights, mats and stationary bikes but isn’t exclusively a gym. Billups describes it instead as a wellness-integrated fitness facility offering personalized workout plans and nutrition advice to members and services such as free BMI screenings, blood pressure measurements and body fat tests to anyone who walks in.

Many of those people might never have had access to something similar due to a lack of nearby resources or transportation, Billups added.

Lucy Carr, a YEP! member and resident of Marlowe Court, said she and many of her neighbors don’t have cars. If YEP! weren’t so close to home, she might not make it to a gym at all.

“We don’t have that,” fellow member Randy Steele agreed. “You really can’t go in an urban atmosphere and see a health and wellness center there. You’re not going to get it. With them putting this right here and giving the information that’s needed as well, it’s a beautiful thing. I think it can change a lot in the community.”

Steele’s family has a history of diabetes and high blood pressure, so he exercises to lower his own risk, he said.

Both are common health problems for black Americans across the country.

According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black Americans have higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and stroke than their same-age white peers, and the health gulf becomes more significant in older age groups. Although the difference between black and white rates of high blood pressure among 18-to-34-year-olds is small — 12% versus 10% — it widens exponentially among those 50-64. In that group, the black rate of high blood pressure is 64% compared to the white rate of 41%.

In all groups, black Americans are about twice as likely to have a stroke as white people the same age and more likely to die, period.

The causes of these problems are complex, the CDC noted. At YEP!, Billups said, solutions don’t have to be.

“It’s really more about the access piece,” he said. “Access to care, access to professional help, access to education, access to professional advice.”