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GirlTrek Takes to the Streets of Mississippi

Walking thirty minutes every day is a great way to start living heart healthy TODAY. In 2014 after my son, E.J., survived cardiac arrest, our family started our health journey. As a mom with a career, church involvement, family, my son's sports activities and so much more, I still needed to be more active. But finding the right routine that would fit my busy schedule is what I needed the most.

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Walking is all about having the courage to take that first step. The American Heart Association encourages each of us to walk at least thirty minutes per day. If you’re trying to get active, then the first step is walking. See on heart.org how a 30-minute walk can go a long way towards a heart-healthy lifestyle. Walking is one of the simplest ways to be active and can help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and other diseases. 

So, on my birthday May 3, 2015, after many invites from my cousin Flecia Nelson, I decided to join a morning walking group. The first day, I was late. I arrived at 5:30 a.m. as the ladies were preparing to go home. However, they were excited I was there, welcomed me, and stayed to walk my first mile with me. This was the encouragement and support that I needed. I joined their group that day! 

Our group name is 4Dark30 and is part of GirlTrek, a non-profit organization on a mission to inspire one million Black women to walk to save their own lives, through walking. Our group is committed to walking five days a week, 30 minutes or more from 4:30 a.m. – 5:30 a.m for better health. The ladies of 4Dark30 are the change-makers for their families, friends, churches and communities. They are strong, dedicated and committed to their health journey. They have the heart of a champion! I am so thankful to God for our divine connection!

With over 150,000 neighborhood walkers, GirlTrek encourages women to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living, families, and communities. It's co-founded by two college friends - Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrisonon - and is the largest health movement for Black women and girls in the United States. As women organize walking teams, they mobilize community members to support monthly advocacy efforts and lead a civil rights-inspired health movement.

Beyond walking, GirlTrek’s active members support local and national policy to increase physical activity through walking, improve access to safe places to walk, protect and reclaim green spaces, and improve the walkability and built environments of 50 high-need communities across the United States. With Partnership for a Healthier America, the Centers for Disease Control, Stanford Prevention Research Center, the American Council on Exercise, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and the Sierra Club, GirlTrek has developed a world-class training for African-American women to serve as health professionals in the areas of fitness, mental health, nutrition, and environmental stewardship. GirlTrek’s mission is to inspire one million African-American women and girls to develop a daily habit of walking.

GirlTrek considers walking as the "single most powerful thing a woman can do to improve her health. That matters because today - right now - Black women are dying younger and at higher rates than any other group of women from preventable chronic disease. Today 137 Black women are projected to die from heart disease alone. Beyond talking, we are walking for our lives! All across America, we walk for total healing, to slow down in this crazy world, to meditate, pray, rejoice, worship and connect. We walk and talk to solve problems together - an army of freedom fighters - to honor the women who walked before us. This is our tradition." (Harriet's Handbook, Why We Walk, 2018).

The sisterhood believes that self-care is revolutionary and we are real women make real changes with our life stories.  We have groups that walk and solo walkers across the state of Mississippi and other states. GirlTrek inspires us to: save your own life first, when you learn the way, come back for a sister, rally your allies for accocuntability, help, inspiration and encouragement, and find JOY.  We believe every sister needs a sister to hold us accountable and to encourage each other.  On any journey there are good days and not so good days, but the support and encouragement keeps us striving for a healthier lifestyle.

GirlTrek is saving lives of so many women and I am one that was SAVED. We invite our families, friends, co-workers and anyone we meet to trek/walk with us. 

We walk to heal our bodies, inspire our daughters and reclaim the streets of our neighborhoods.

“Come Take a Walk. Join The Movement!” For more information, please visit www.girltrek.org

Ollie Galloway is a You're the Cure advocate, who serves on the American Heart Association's Mississippi Advocacy Committee.

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