DAYTON — A group of Dayton women discovered that camaraderie, friendship and fitness are a powerful combination.
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The Melanin Walkers are a group of local women who walk the track at Meadowdale High School every day to improve their health.
Starting at 6 in the morning, almost 60 women gather every morning and start walking and enjoying their time together.
Leronda Jackson is the group leader, but she also thinks of herself as a mother hen because she takes care of everyone and is always the first to arrive and the last to leave every day.
The group started with 3 to 4 women, but in May it began to grow steadily. Each day, Jackson counts the number of participants, and he says when they get more than 30 people, it just explodes.
We average about 30 to 50 each day. It gets pushed back a little bit over the weekend, so we could have 25 over the weekend, Jackson said.
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The group is for all women, not just those who are black.
Crystal Richardson was one of the original walkers, and she said the group’s evolution has been an amazing thing to watch.
I think it’s beautiful, a group of women looking to get healthy and make better decisions to promote their health, Richardson said.
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The sisterhood between the Melanie Walkers is strong. Off the trail, they’ll go out and eat breakfast together, pray together, and they’ll check in on each other when they don’t see anyone in the morning.
It’s fun, there’s no judgement, I didn’t want someone to get on the treadmill and not know anyone, so everyone’s welcome, it’s like a little workout we did without the workout. It’s not like that, and I wanted everyone to feel comfortable, Jackson said.
The women in the group often bring their mothers and children to join in the fun.
Trotwood resident Jenny Williams Washington was introduced to the group by her daughter, who has been walking for the past few years. While walking, he gets inspiration every day and strives for physical health.
It inspired me because I wake up every morning at 5 o’clock in the morning and I’ve been retired for 33 years, but it inspired me because when I came and saw all the young ladies and everything and I said I don’t want be a couch, And then when I have weakness on my left side, this has been really good for me, Williams Washington said.
Jackson coordinated the movement on Facebook, inviting and urging her friends to come out and walk, but this year she wanted to do things a little differently.
This year I took a more proactive approach to getting black women off the couch, not being sedentary, getting out here and walking and just seeing the improvements, Jackson said.
It became a ripple effect, and those who came brought their friends, and those who attended brought their friends, causing it to expand massively.
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Trotwood resident LaJuana Currington joined the group in mid-June when a longtime friend of hers talked her into coming out, and she’s been on the track every day since.
I like the camaraderie, I like that it’s free, it’s fun, we have a lot of fun in the morning. You can see us joking around and laughing, and that’s what I enjoy the most, and I also improve my health when I do it, Currington said.
Some of the positive benefits Jackson has been told by members of his group include weight loss, lower A1C, increased circulation, and thyroid issues.
My A1C was really high, it was like 7.1, and I got it down to 6.5 now, and so I’m getting healthier every step of the way, Currington said.
Dayton area resident Luri Herford is a double cancer survivor and ever since she wanted to find a way to pull herself together, and that’s when she came across the group at African American Wellness Kyle.
My endurance, my stamina, I’m sleeping better, my A1C is down, I just feel better, I just feel better, Herford said.
I just want us to not be comfortable carrying that much weight, and I wanted us to understand what that does to the heart when it has to work harder for blood flow. It’s cardio, some people think it’s not cardio, but it’s cardio, Jackson said.
Jackson wants to influence her peers to get out and walk together and get active because black women are leading the way in obesity and co-morbidities. Compared to their white counterparts, black women are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
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The numbers are disproportionately in our favor, so we have to get out there and do the job, Jackson said.
Through walkers’ laughter, positive conversation and encouragement, each woman strives to push each other to keep coming back each day.
There’s a history of black women not working, there’s a history of our health, that our numbers are higher, and there was going to be a change in history, and that’s what they were doing here today, Jackson said.
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