The statistics for African Americans were grim before the COVID-19 pandemic. Four out of five African American women are overweight or morbidly obese and are more likely to die of the chronic diseases associated with obesity.
The pandemic and its disproportionate economic, physical and emotional impact on African Americans has only exacerbated the problem.
One group believes that walking can go a long way in helping women of color improve their mental health during this difficult time. GirlTrek is a national walking movement that encourages women, especially African American women, to walk 30 minutes a day.
Habibah Jackson is an organizer for GirlTrek who leads a local team in Silver Spring. It is the largest nonprofit health organization for Black women and girls with chapters throughout the country.
Jackson said it’s a supportive environment for women who are new to walking.
“They may not think that they can walk a certain distance, or a certain speed … and just with that support from other women who look like them, who understand where they’re coming from, they’re amazed by what they can accomplish,” Jackson said.
The GirlTrek organizer got started with the group in 2013, not long after it became a nonprofit. It was founded by Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, two friends from Los Angeles.
Jackson said she saw an ad on Facebook for a 100-minute walk on the National Mall in honor of Harriet Tubman on March 13 of that year.
“I was at the beginning of a new health journey for myself, so I thought this would be an awesome opportunity to jump-start that,” she said.
“You don’t have to join a group to become part of the organization. Most of our women are solo trekkers, meaning they do walk alone. You just get support from that community — that sisterly love.”
As a married mother of two, Jackson said she’s always there for everyone else.
“GirlTrek has given me the space to take care of myself,” Jackson said.
GirlTrek can be reached by phone at 202-808-8419, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.