Last year, Caroline Foster started walking two miles daily and lost 40 pounds. But weight loss had nothing to do with why she began the BHAM Babes Walking Club, which launched in April 2023 and already has nearly 3,000 members in its Facebook group. We caught up with Caroline to learn more about the club’s inspiration, the benefits of walking, and the club’s mission to spread positivity.
Caroline started BHAM Babe Walking Club hoping to connect with other women in Greater Birmingham. She has only lived in the area for five years, and as a professional nanny, she doesn’t meet many other adults at work. “I needed to make friends, and obviously, so did everybody else,” Caroline says. Once she got the idea to start the club, she spread the word through community Facebook groups. “From there, it just took off overnight,” she says. “People were inviting their friends to the walks and to join our Facebook group. Businesses in the area were starting to reach out to us and posting stuff on their page.”
The BHAM Babes Walking Club now has group meetups in downtown Birmingham, Trussville, Homewood, Helena, Mountain Brook, Hoover, Pelham, Inverness, and Alabaster. They’ve done walks in Avondale and Crestwood, too. In fact, the group has grown so rapidly that Caroline has had women from Tuscaloosa and Mobile reach out for tips on how to start a club of their own. Caroline hopes the women of the club will build intergenerational friendships. Most women in the group are ages 25 to 45, but some college students and women in their 60s also regularly attend the meetups.
In addition to hosting several walks each week, the group also hosts two social events each month. They’ve had brunch at Cahaba Brewery, dinner at Moss Rock Tacos, and a picnic at City Park in Pelham, to name a few. Partnering with local businesses is another of the club’s goals. Basecamp in Cahaba Heights recently hosted an event for the BHAM Babes Walking Club that included a special workout, vendors, and even a mixer.
New Name, Same Mission
The BHAM Babes Walking Club was formerly called the BHM Hot Girl Walking Club and was one of several nationwide Hot Girl Walking clubs. In fact, it was a Hot Girl Walking Club in Phoenix that inspired Caroline to start one in Greater Birmingham.
The “Hot Girl Walk” is an exercise trend created during the pandemic by TikTok influencer Mia Lind. In an interview with HuffPost, she explained that she was looking for ways to exercise that she didn’t dread during the lockdown. She settled on walking, but because walking isn’t viewed as a legitimate form of exercise by some, she coined the term “Hot Girl Walk” to give walking a bit of a “rebranding.”
Mia Lind recently trademarked “Hot Girl Walk,” and several cities’ Hot Girl Walking Clubs had their Instagram accounts reported and removed from the app — including Birmingham’s. To avoid any future conflict, Caroline did some rebranding of her own, and the group became the BHAM Babes Walking Club.
The Health Benefits of Walking
Whether it makes you feel like a hot girl or not, walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise; the health benefits are well-documented. In fact, a special report issued by Harvard Medical School declares that walking can do more to combat disease and other health conditions than nearly anything else. Walking for 2.5 hours a week — just 21 minutes a day — can cut your risk of heart disease by 30 percent. Furthermore, walking has been shown to reduce the risks of diabetes, cancer, and obesity, as well as lower blood pressure and cholesterol. “I think that not only has it helped my physical health, but also my mental health,” Caroline says. “I’m extremely introverted, but this has really brought me out of my shell.”
There’s no doubt that Caroline has found the friends she was hoping for. Some of her nearest and dearest in the group are the women who serve on its leadership team — women like Christina Gamble, who helps with scheduling and leads the walking groups in South Birmingham, and Haley Martin, who leads Downtown Birmingham walks. “I became a Downtown leader to make friends in my local area as well as to introduce others to all the cool parks and restaurants we have downtown,” Haley says. And while she and Christina joined the group to meet people, they have another goal too. “My mission as a BHAM Babe is to make body-positive exercise more accessible and bring the joy back into loving and moving our bodies,” she tells us.
Christina echoes those sentiments. “Our culture has fed women all kinds of negative and toxic messages about our bodies and exercise and has told us we need to be in competition with other women. But I think a large part of why this group has grown so quickly is that we emphasize being body positive, encouraging each other to show up as we are,” Christina says. “And we celebrate wins of all levels. Did you overcome your anxiety just to show up to an event? That alone is worth celebrating! This positive message is resonating with women all over the area, and [they are] finding connection with each other through it.”
Walking Toward the Future
No matter how big the BHAM Babes Walking Club gets, Caroline hopes to keep all of the social events free or low cost. “I think that’s huge, especially in the economy today,” Caroline says. “We’re giving people who join our group opportunities to try out gyms that would typically be out of their price range. We’re getting them into restaurants, so we’re helping out local businesses.”
For anyone considering joining the BHAM Babes Walking Club for a walk, Caroline says, “Just do it!” You can even reach out to a walk leader and ask her to meet you before the walk so you won’t have to approach a big group of women you’ve never met all by yourself. “All ages and exercise levels are welcome,” she says, “and we’re never going to leave anybody behind.”
Follow the BHAM Babes Walking Club on Instagram @bhambabeswalkingclub.
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