By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

Local Links didn’t let self-quarantining and stay-at-home orders stop them from stepping outside for safe social distancing exercise for National Walking Day.  After coming in first for the second consecutive year, the DMV Links Team, “SOLE siSTARs,” and their community partner Dress for Success Washington, D.C., participated in the American Heart Association’s Corporate Step Challenge on April 1.  

“The American Heart Association has declared the first Wednesday in April National Walking Day,” said DMV Links Sole siSTARs Team Captain Michelle Bailey.  “It’s about encouraging everyone to move. And, walking is a great low impact exercise with many health benefits including reducing the incidence of many diseases, such as heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among women and it also disproportionately affects African Americans.”

Links “SOLE siSTARs” Team Captain Michelle Bailey and The DMV Links celebrated National Walking Day on April 1 by participating in, and ultimately winning, the Corporate Step Challenge to promote heart health. (Courtesy Photo)

Fourteen Links chapters from throughout the D.M.V. region participated in the event to combat heart disease and advocate for healthy living.  

While this is the second consecutive year The DMV Links are walking for heart health, the women’s service and leadership organization is not new to their work in raising awareness about heart disease in the Black community.  The AFRO has regularly covered the DMV Links’ annual Red Dress Event for heart disease, which gathers thousands of women across the area for a informative and entertaining sessions and exhibits to teach how to get and remain healthy.  Participating in National Walking Day is an extension of their efforts.

“The American Heart Association (AHA) is a Links national partner. And, our national partners play an integral role in helping to support the overall work and mission of our premier women’s organization,” Bailey explained. “Partnering for the betterment of our communities, such partners support us in executing, upholding and fulfilling the mission, vision and goal of our key focus areas. The Greater Washington Region American Heart Association (GWR AHA) Corporate Step Challenge on National Walking Day goes hand in hand with our signature program, ‘Walk for Healthy Living,’ encouraging members and the community to walk at least 5,000 steps per day.”

The “SOLE siSTARs” are touting the title of winners of the Corporate Step Challenge after tracking over one million steps.

“We are proud to be leading the way for this event that is yet another way to showcase our coordinated commitment to health. We don’t just preach it; we practice it too (everyday),” Bailey said.

While they encouraged people to get out and walk, the DMV Links Team emphasized social distancing regulations. 

“Safety and health are cornerstones of our organization, especially during this unprecedented time. Therefore, it was imperative that the walk adhered to social distancing standards. We communicated that this was a ‘virtual walk,’ meaning you were to walk individually, not in groups. Only healthy family members within the same household walked together,” Bailey said. 

Adhering to the recommendations, nearly 200 people registered for the National Walking Day event, “including Links members, their spouses, children and our community partner, Dress for Success Washington, D.C.,” Bailey said.

Under the leadership of the Arlington, Virginia Chapter, home to the Links National President Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, PhD and Links National Health and Human Services Director Dr. Nicholette Martin, several chapters from across the country took part in the event.

While the event was initially marketed towards the Links and Dress for Success, these unprecedented times and social media allowed for people from all over the country to take part in the Corporate Step Challenge.   

“So we opened the walk to anyone in the organization who wanted to join the movement,” Bailey said. Our members love to walk! And during this unprecedented time we are in, we understand the need to feel connected, engaged and to participate in a fun fitness activity that gives a sense of normalcy.  The GWR AHA was delighted that so many members were rallying around this movement across the country!”

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor