Sometimes only two people show up to the walks. Other times it’s in the dozens. No matter what, though, you can find Dannielle Norris and Sharvonne Williams at an Indianapolis park ready to lead a monthly Sisters Together Walk.
Sisters Together: Move More Eat Better is a national initiative of the Weight-control Information Network and part of the Centers of Wellness for Urban Women (CWUW) Indianapolis.
The program targets Black women, but walks are open to anyone — including husbands, boyfriends and children. The women meet one Saturday each month throughout the year at various parks around Indianapolis to walk and talk for an hour.
Williams has been a walk leader since February and has been on the CWUW board for almost a year. She got involved for the first time three of four years ago when she was one of the winners of CWUW’s “7 Days of Wellness” challenge.
“It’s a time to release,” said Williams, who also enjoys visiting different parks since she’s not from Indianapolis. “For me, I call it self-care. Even though it’s once a month, that’s a self-care hour.”
Participants bring their water bottles and walking shoes — and masks during the COVID-19 pandemic — and are encouraged to talk about anything but work. It’s supposed to be a time of some physical exercise paired with a social outing.
Norris said one of the most common things she hears as a walk leader is people don’t have someone to exercise with, so there’s no one to hold them accountable. Sisters Together Walks are supposed to provide that motivation and support.
Of course, walking for an hour once a month isn’t going to drastically improve anyone’s life outlook, but there are clear benefits to making walking a regular exercise routine.
A daily brisk walk can help maintain a healthy weight, improve your mood, strengthen bones and muscles, and prevent or manage conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Unlike running and other higher-intensity fitness routines, walking is an exercise that people can continue with — or start — in old age. The Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) trial found that after 2 1/2 years, people between 70 and 89 years old who exercised with daily walking, along with strength and balance training, were 28% less likely to become disabled than those who took part in education workshops on healthy aging that included some gentle stretching routines.
Along with physical health, it can also be good to have a routine and something to look forward to with other people. The seven dimensions of wellness CWUW focuses on include emotional, spiritual and social health.
“A lot of people get so bundled up in life — working, school, family, parenting, whatever it is,” said Norris, who is also a behavioral therapist. “If you can just get that one time for yourself once a month, that’s very vital to your self-care.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.