This article was made possible through the support of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, which has sponsored Qcity Health since 2010.
What would happen if one million African American women pledged to walk daily?
Black women would become community change agents, embrace walking to heal and unite our communities, and health disparities could decrease, declares a new nationwide nonprofit.
Sound like a good idea.
That organization, GirlTrek, yearns to see these effects come to fruition, one stride at a time, so it is using a three-pronged approach to get more women of color walking in their communities:
- Solo Trekkers: Women who walk without a team any day or time
- Trek Teams: Group of 10-plus women who walk any day or time
- SuperHero Saturdays: Groups of women who meet weekly for fun, fellowship and to inspire each others toward good health goals
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of black women are overweight or obese, surpassing every other demographic group in the country. Over the age of 55, one in four has diabetes.
Thus, the expectation of Girl Trek is to recruit one million volunteer walkers by 2018.
That’s a lofty goal for an organization birthed in 2010 by founders Vanessa Garrison and Morgan Dixon, but it’s certainly not impossible. The nonprofit, founded in Washington, DC, has chapters in Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis and now Charlotte.
“GirlTrek has been in the Charlotte area since February 2016 and is growing, says Erica Andrews, city captain for GirlTrek: Charlotte. “There has been an overwhelming response.”
More than 170 women have joined the chapter’s Facebook group, and nationally, more than 58,000 women have made the commitment to walk 30 minutes per day, five days per week, in their communities to heal their bodies, reclaim their neighborhoods, and inspire their daughters, Andrews said.
Walking for health is nothing new. In fact, today is National Walking Day, a day designated by the American Heart Association to help Americans get moving, a strategy to help eliminate heart disease, strokes and other health disparities.
It’s no secret that physical activity, like walking, can help improve one’s overall health, above all minority health, which lags compared to the general population.
“Lifestyle factors such as smoking, nutrition and physical inactivity are the leading causes of health disparities among African Americans,” says Dr. Yvette Marie Miller, executive medical officer of Charlotte’s American Red Cross.
Girl Trek continues to grow exponentially due, in part, to its grassroots approach — channeling black heritage to inspire women. Organizers also recognize that walking is often less intimidating than some traditional exercises, like aerobics and running.
“We believe that not only can walking help women improve their health, we believe through walking women become powerful agents for change in their communities,” says Andrews.
Count me in.
You can join, too. Here in Charlotte, SuperHero walks are held the first and third Saturdays of each month at Freedom Park. The group assembles near the big train at 8:45 a.m. for a warm-up, and the walk begins at 9.
Although not a requirement, Andrews suggest participants arrive in blue attire and bring a friend. The next Girl Trek walk is on Saturday, April 16. In May, plans are to add Mallard/Clark’s Creek Greenway for its next SuperHero Saturday meetup.
Until next time, I wish you wellness and joy!