Walking the Walk
The Best Exercise
In addition to sponsoring local groups, Walking for Wellness and the American Heart Association stage annual walks to get out the word about walking and cardiovascular health. In June, walks took place in Baltimore; Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; and Detroit.
The walks' organizers hope to counter the numbers shown in several recent studies. A July 1999 study of 218 black college students, in the Journal of the National Medical Association (the organization representing African-American physicians), found that young black women had lower levels of aerobic fitness compared with African-American men, as well as white and Hispanic women.
In addition, several recent studies have pointed to rising levels of obesity among young black women and adolescents, which may raise the risk of diabetes, coronary heart disease, and certain cancers. A nationwide study of more than 17,700 middle school and high school students in the June issue of Pediatrics found that African-American girls were particularly likely to be sedentary and thus potentially at greater risk for problems such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Avery originally aimed her program at older black women, but recently several campuses of historically black colleges have formed chapters, including Southern University in Baton Rouge, La; Morgan University in Baltimore; and Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. Eventually, she hopes to widen the program to include men as well.
The National Black Women's Health Project provides a resource kit with guidelines on how to form a walking group and tips such as stretching exercises. The kit is available by calling the NBWHP at (202) 543-9311 or visiting the group's web site at http://www.nbwhp.org.
Beatrice Motamedi is a health and medical writer based in Oakland, Calif., who has written for Hippocrates, Newsweek, Wired, and many other national publications.