Professor creates fitness program geared toward minorities

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Terri Givens, UT Government professor, hugs her kids during the launching of her clothing line Take Back the Trail. The clothing line will create fitness programs for minority women.

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Blue, pink and black shirts emblazoned with a cowgirl boot or a high-heel shoe will help fund a fitness program geared toward minority women in Austin.

Associate government professor Terri Givens launched Take Back the Trail, a “socially conscious fitness apparel line,” Monday and plans to expand the line in the future.

Among women, obesity rates are highest for blacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“You go down to Town Lake and there’s thousands of people running around the trail, and I’ve always noticed there aren’t many people of color,” Givens said. “I don’t want people to see fitness as just something for the elite or wealthy.”

Health promotion senior Ashley Gayle said she became interested in Take Back the Trail when Givens told her about the concept in her office hours.

“I really like the heel look,” Gayle said. “I’m kind of a girly girl. I like that you can have a fashionable shirt, but you can sweat in it. It’s cute and it makes a statement.”

Gayle, a center on the UT women’s basketball team, volunteered at the launch for the line. The company is looking for more volunteers to help with the fitness initiative.

Austin Woman magazine sponsored the launch event for Take Back the Trail, and this month’s issue of the magazine features Givens in the cover article.

Apparel sales will fund 12-week fitness sessions that will cater to 30-40 minority women to help them improve their fitness and nutrition. At the end of the sessions the participants will have the opportunity to walk or run in a 5K.

A pilot program will start in August with another session planned for the spring.

“My main goal is to get them to realize fitness is something they can fit into their lives and that proper nutrition isn’t out of reach,” Givens said.

Plans for the community initiative include cooking demonstrations, information about where to buy healthy and inexpensive foods, and possibly vouchers for farmers markets. Executive Director Bridget Bailey said the company’s slogan, “take back your heart, health and community” is central to its social initiative.

“We really want to connect the people who already are dedicated to fitness to those who desire to do the same,” Bailey said. “This is not a handout, but a hand up. We’re really interested in how to tackle social issues with business.”

Psychology graduate student Desiré Taylor researches African-American women and body image.

“The heart is really the foundation and that’s the psychological aspect of being healthy,” she said.

Taylor attended the launch event and said she was interested in an organization that could be a health and empowerment resource for minority women.

“I’m noticing a lot of diversity around the room, and if this is a community-based group then it’s awesome that they’re bringing people in from different backgrounds, because they will be more effective in reaching out to different people in the community,” Taylor said.