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Girl Smarts These college friends are on a mission to get you moving

These women are sharing their stories, secrets, and strategies so you can make waves in your world. Here, these college friends created a life-changing movement based on…movement: T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison

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These college friends are on a mission to get you moving play

These college friends are on a mission to get you moving

(SYLVÈ COLLESS)

The 2018 Women’s Health Game Changers are rethinking what it means to be healthy, and they’re shifting the course of wellness for you.

These women are sharing their stories, secrets, and strategies so you can make waves in your world. Here, these college friends created a life-changing movement based on…movement: T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison

Dixon (left) was pals with Garrison for five years before she realized her friend was a runner. “We used to bond over Tupac and poetry, but I don’t think we ever worked out together,” she says.

Neither woman grew up with a mother or aunts who exercised. But once they learned the shocking truth about black women’s health-African American women die from preventable diseases at younger ages and higher rates than members of any other demographic-they quit their jobs in 2012 and founded GirlTrek, a nonprofit that aims to help the community reclaim their health, connect, and engage with their towns.

But make no mistake: “This isn’t a weight-loss program; it’s a movement,” Dixon says. “We’re talking about outrunning the grim reaper here.”

Or, put another way, outwalking. When it came to choosing a way to get women moving, the pair felt walking was a no-brainer. It’s accessible and easy, and also, vitally, the pace allows GirlTrekkers to talk. “The talking is critical because it offers emotional support,” says Garrison.

Often, those deep discussions start and gather momentum online, harnessing the power of tech to kick off the IRL magic. “Before we received any funding, we started a Facebook group called Healthy Black Women and Girls,” says Dixon. “We got 50,000 follows just by putting a call to action for people who hoped to live their ‘healthiest, most fulfilled lives.’”

Today, that following has grown fivefold; 150,000 women have pounded the pavement under the GirlTrek banner so far. Currently a third of the way into a 50-stop “Road to Selma” tour featuring teach-ins about wellness, community organizing, and resistance, GirlTrek is growing fast. “The most radical thing we can do is pursue joy when everything around us tells us to be sad. We’re moving forward; we’re walking it out," says Dixon. 

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Women's Health. For more great advice, pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands now!

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