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Tamika Harden

Source: Collette Bonaparte / Collette Bonaparte Photography

Imagine being in perfect nutritional and physical health and suddenly you’re diagnosed with a deadly virus. This is the story of personal fitness trainer, instructor and coronavirus survivor Tamika Harden.

“I experienced a heavy and rapidly recurring cough. The cough was so frequent and powerful, that it felt as if my chest was vibrating when I coughed, a very uncomfortable feeling,” Harden shared of her first alarming symptoms. Only in her mid-30s and a healthy living and wellness practicing mom and fitness advocate, Tamika felt like she was hit with a bullet called COVID-19. “Many of us were led to believe that the coronavirus affected only older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions,” Tamika mythbusted. “However, we quickly learned that this virus doesn’t discriminate and that people of all ages should take steps to protect themselves from the virus.”

Medical professionals and the Center for Disease Control only advise that those with severe, visible COVID-19 symptoms – or if you’re in close contact with those who have severe symptoms – should be considered for testing. However, according to BuzzFeed, doctors are expressing concern for Black and brown communities due to the limited number of testing available in a country with a history of racial bias and discrepancies. After being denied for testing twice for testing, the South Jamaica, Queens bred life coach and personal trainer begins to see the country’s lack of resources and preparation.

“Being denied testing twice speaks to the health disparities in our communities, especially the African American communities. It speaks to the lack of readiness to combat a virus, as deadly as COVID-19,” Tamika revealed.

“This proves that the government wasn’t prepared for what was ahead of us. It was very scary and frustrating being denied access to medical care. My experience shed light on the health care disparities in the African American community. The lack of medical supplies and medical support is more prevalent in African American communities,” she shared.

Before contracting COVID-19, Harden successfully ran a gym where she trained more than 200 women per month. In this time of fear, Tamika has pushed her way through the virus with a positive mental attitude and through positive action via healthy living and wellness. The mother of two encourages HelloBeautiful readers to do the same.

Tamika Harden

Source: Collette Bonaparte / Collette Bonaparte Photography

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many of us to self-isolate and practice social distancing, it is important that we stay active. Exercising at home and maintaining an active lifestyle is an important part of keeping both your body and mind healthy,” Tamika stressed the importance of remaining physically active during quarantine. “Physical movement is also essential for mental health. Times of unexpected change, hardship, and forced isolation can cause increased feelings of anxiety, sadness and depression. Going for a social distancing walk, eating healthily, and exercising will not only keep you physically in shape, but it will help lift your spirits as well.”

As a fitness instructor and owner of Body by Tamika, Tamika offers an array of fitness classes daily, which are accessible via zoom. Additionally, there are several fitness programs available online that one can engage in from the comfort of their home with the help of Instagram Live, FaceTime and more. Tamika also cites dog-walking, jogging, cycling, and jump rope as exercise options that can be extremely effective when done regularly.

Nutrition plays a vital part in your physicality, as we all know, so if your diet is not up to par, your immune system won’t be either. “Stocking up on healthier options can make a big difference. Making small changes such as adding more vegetables to every meal and drinking more water than sugary beverages goes a long way,” says Tamika. She continues to add that those who exercise on a regular basis are more likely to eat healthier. Foods such as healthy greens, walnuts, and legumes are examples of good nutrients to stock up on as opposed to frozen dinners and empty calories, according to Nutrition.org.

Physical isn’t the only aspect of strength needed to arm your immune system against COVID-19. “Mental toughness and physical fitness allows the body to fight harder against a virus such as COVID-19. To be immunologically fit, you need to be physically fit. A healthy lifestyle including physical exercise strengthens your immune system and the ability for white blood cells to fight off invasion,” Tamika explains. “Mental toughness encourages you to take on the virus with everything you have. Feelings of defeat add more stress to the body, which can take away from its ability to fight.” When your mental health is compromised, your immune system and your brain doesn’t see eye-to-eye, meaning that your body can turn on itself and cause colds, panic attacks, seizures and more.

Because mental health and physical health are linked to one another, your percentage of risk of a chronic illness of any kind will increase if you suffer from any mental health issues. Moreover, those experiencing terminal or  chronic illnesses or pains are more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression, according to the CDC’s Mental Health and Chronic Diseases report.

“Better physical health alleviates the symptoms of depression and anxiety. This relationship means that staying physically healthy is extremely important. During this time, the best way to practice positive mental health is to stay active using positive outlets,” Tamika explains. “I encourage people to stay in touch with the people they love using video calling features.” Tamika further encourages everyone to use all virtual resources available, including online support groups.

During COVID-19, practicing mental strength can be a challenge, especially those experiencing mental health issues including anxiety and depression, but Tamika shares her positive light with the readers of HelloBeautiful to ensure safety, confidence and stillness. “I tell my virtual clients and virtual community everyday, ‘together we will survive the quarantine and we will come out better than before.’ Tough times don’t last, tough people do,” as she shares her closing words of wisdom.

Tamika continues, “The best way to combat fear is to be proactive. It’s important to focus more on the things we can control and less on the things we can’t. We can choose to take action and begin to live a healthier lifestyle. You never know how strong you are until strong is the only choice you have!”

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