Fort Worth

North Texas Women Find Wellness and Friendship in Walking Group

National Women's Health Week reminds women to prioritize their health

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It's National Women's Health Week: a reminder for women to make their health and wellness a priority.

The first step can be as easy as a walk.

"Start with 15 minutes. Don't try to kill yourself, and increase from there but just get going. And, walking is something everybody can do without a whole lot of effort," said Correen Robertson, a woman who regularly walks with friends along the Trinity River in Fort Worth.

They meet up at The Trailhead at Clearfork once a week, a commitment they've kept for about four years now.

The pace of their steps and the conversation makes time fly.

"It is more than just walking," Robertson said. "It's a sisterhood. We support each other."

They are members of GirlTrek, a global health movement for African-American women.

"The main mission is to get us a community to understand that diabetes and heart attacks, strokes," said Joyt Gray. "That's the #1 killer for African-American women."

Gray has been athletic all her life and regularly walks with her husband, but when fellow church member Babette Haines told her about GirlTrek, Gray stepped up.

"We just want to introduce this to everyone. Walking is free. It doesn't cost anything," Haines said.

Before too long, Wyntress Ware, a nurse and former business owner, joined the group, too. Ware is a mall walker and practices yoga but GirlTrek brings in another element.

"The girls here are part of my unique team," Ware said. "It's more than just walking. There's a fellowship, a friendship that we connected with each other."

Latoya Miller had recently moved to Fort Worth when one morning she was at breakfast and spotted a group of women walking along the Trinity River.

"I saw this blue, these ladies in blue, and I was like, 'GirlTrek!'," Miller said. She'd previously been part of groups in her home state of Mississippi and Memphis where she went to college and was ready to be part of the group again.

"It keeps me motivated. And it keeps me on track. Sometimes when I'm by myself and do things by myself, I can fall off," she said.

"This organization, it keeps us accountable," Robertson said. "As you see, I'm not the skinny one but I still work out and it makes you feel better."

"Now that I know that if walk enough, I can eat the things I want in moderation and still lose weight. So, I'm 11 pounds down. I'm motivated," said Haines.

"We have to, as African-Americans, relate to exercise and movement," Ware said.

GirlTrek started in 2010 with two friends in Los Angeles. The website describes GirlTrek as "a global movement of Black women leveraging the historic legacy of walking and the power of self-care as a pathway to heal and transform our lives. We believe walking 30 minutes a day is a radical act of self-love and the root of a cultural revolution."

According to GirlTrek:

  • There is a 5-10 year less life expectancy for Black women behind other racial groups;
  • 81% of Black women are overweight;
  • 52% of Black women are obese;
  • 20% are less likely to engage in physical activity.

The movement struck a chord. By 2020, a million women around the world had joined the movement.

The group surveyed members in 2019 and discovered:

  • 61% of Black women lost weight;
  • 90% experienced fewer symptoms of depression;
  • 28% were prescribed less medication that year than previous years;
  • 59% walk daily at life-saving levels (According to the CDC, 5 days per week for 30 minutes);
  • 56% have sustained a habit of daily walking for more than one year.

If the impact isn't enough to inspire members, motivation also comes from abolitionist Harriett Tubman. They proudly wear sweatshirts with a H on the front and the hashtag We Are Harriett.

"Harriett Tubman is a big inspiration because she walked and so we as a movement, we can walk," Robertson said. "If she can walk in any kind of weather doing what she did, then we can walk, too."

And every step of the way, there's a sisterhood ready to embrace, motivate and cheer each other on to the finish line.

The Office on Women's Health under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging women and girls to reflect on their individual needs and take steps to improve and maintain their overall health. The public is invited to virtual discussions about health and aging, menopause and midlife health among other topics. Find out more here.

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