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Health & Fitness: ‘Homophobia is a health hazard’

Atlanta Health Initiative

Discrimination doesn’t just stand in the way of civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In some cases, it may actually contribute to making us sick.

“I think that we can legitimately call homophobia a health hazard,” said Linda Ellis, executive director of the Health Initiative, the new Atlanta-based organization that aims to be “Georgia’s voice for LGBTQ health.”

“Whether it is because of actual discrimination expressed by an uncaring provider or the internalized dread of what might happen in the vulnerable setting of a doctor’s exam room, LGBT individuals are still less likely to seek healthcare,” she said.

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Health & Fitness: Gear and gadgets to get you moving

Nike training shoes and app

Sure, you don’t need new clothes, shoes, or cool gadgets to work out or improve your health. But shopping for something new and fun can sometimes be just the motivation you need to push forward with your fitness plan.

Here are few items we like to get you workout ready.

Nike+ running shoes and app
Shoes: $90 and up | Sensor: $19 |

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Tips to choose the right gym for you

Have you joined a gym in the past as a New Year’s resolution, then found your enthusiasm waning before spring? Choosing the right gym (even if it isn’t actually a gym at all) will go a long way to helping you keep your fitness resolutions.

Here are five tips to help you pick the right place to work out.

1. Community or convenience?

Do you want a gym that feels like home, or one that you can access even if you are far from home? If you like a community feeling and enjoy supporting local businesses, consider one of Atlanta’s gay-popular gyms like Urban Body or Gravity Fitness.

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It’s time to sweat, Atlanta

Nicholas Jacobs, founder of Sweat Atlanta

Nicholas Jacobs, 27, started teaching fitness classes when he was a teenager, following in his mother’s footsteps.

“My mom was an instructor for the YMCA and when I was young I started taking classes and then teaching classes myself when I got older,” he said.

Jacobs moved to Atlanta in 2004 and is originally from the “cornfields of Ohio” — or the small town of Lancaster, Ohio. Fitness has always played a major role in his life and led him to teach classes at LA Fitness. Now Jacobs is ready to take his career one step further.

Although he works fulltime as an account executive for Creative Loafing, he is launching his new side business, Sweat Atlanta. The new business kicks off with a free boot camp Saturday, April 16, at the Regal Hollywood 24 on I-85. While this may be an odd location, Jacobs, who is gay, says there is plenty of parking as well as green space. The boot camp will also include movie ticket giveaways for participants.

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My muscles, my disease: Portrait of a gay drug addict

There is a folder, tucked within a folder, buried deep in my computer files. I shouldn’t be looking at its contents, yet I can’t bring myself to delete it altogether. It is labeled MARCUS, and inside the folder is my disease.

Pool ColoredDuring my years of crystal meth addiction I went by the name of Marcus, at least to dealers and tricks and fellow addicts. It helped me determine who was calling my cell phone – those calling for Mark or Marcus usually had very different agendas – and Marcus even became an alternate persona as my drug addiction progressed.

When partying as Marcus, I felt confident and aloof. I took awful chances. I never met a strobe light I didn’t like or a box on a dance floor I wouldn’t jump on. A steroid-crazed gym regimen and the dehydration of drug abuse transformed my body into the low fat, pumped up gay ideal.

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Health & Fitness: Health Initiative focuses on women’s needs

Founded in 1996, the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative is the only non-profit organization in the Southeast that is exclusively committed to lesbians, their partners and families. Originally called the Atlanta Lesbian Cancer Initiative, the agency has expanded its focus. It now features support groups for issues like cancer, domestic violence and acting as a caregiver for a sick or elderly loved one; Weight Watchers; an online health assessment; a directory of LGBT supportive physicians; the Lesbian Health Fund; and more.

“The Health Initiative has broadened our focus through the years in response to our community’s shifting needs,” says ALHI Executive Director Linda Ellis. “One important addition has been our Health Fund, through which we can now help cover basic screenings and healthcare for uninsured members of Atlanta’s LGBT community.”

The Weight Watchers support group meets every Saturday.

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Health & Fitness: A former jockette tries yoga

Dyana Bagby tries her hand at Studio One's yoga class

I woke up before noon on a Saturday, rolled off my couch and changed into a sweatshirt and some old, baggy workout pants I found from years ago buried deep in my closet.

And then I drove through a few icy streets to Urban Body Studios on Ponce de Leon Place for a beginners’ yoga class. Urban Body, owned by Rad Slough, who is gay, is one of the top studios in the city. This was my first ever yoga class and the first time I’ve done anything physical like this in perhaps five years.

I’ve wanted to try yoga for several years now, especially after noting the dynamic work it seems to have done for Madonna’s body. And everyone who takes yoga says it has changed their life.

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Health & Fitness: Advice for fitness newbies

Donald Creagh, general manager at LA Fitness in Ansley Mall, says making sure a person follows through with a fitness plan starts in the head.

• Make a decision that this is going to be a lifestyle change, not a temporary diet. “Don’t put a deadline on yourself. That takes pressure off,” Creagh says.

• Think about what you are going to eat tomorrow today, he says. That way you can purchase the proper food to prepare instead of rushing to a fast food joint.

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Health & Fitness: Homophobia hurts your health

Homophobic attitudes don’t just hurt feelings. They also have a direct impact on LGBT health.

“The stigma and discrimination that the LGBT community faces is a primary factor in the health disparities that affect our community,” says Hector Vargas, executive director of the national Gay & Lesbian Medical Association.”

Access to quality healthcare is a key issue.

“One of our surveys shows that LGB people delay seeking medical care at almost twice the rate of the heterosexual population,” Vargas says.