Physical Fitness and Sports Month 2014: Girls on the Run

In 2011, President Obama declared May as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Throughout the month, schools and community organizations around the nation will encourage students’ participation in physical activity to promote healthy living.

Studies show that exercise rates among youth have declined, while media consumption has increased. The average American youth now spends over 7 hours in front of screens each day. This amount of screen time can hinder a child’s propensity to be physically active and can have long-term consequences for their physical health and well-being. One way to combat this issue is to help young people get excited about exercise and incorporate physical activity into their daily routines.

Girls on the Run, an international running program, aims to improve the self-esteem of young girls and help them build a positive relationship with physical activity.  Girls on the Run now serves over 130,000 girls in 200 cities in the U.S. and abroad.  Each site places girls from 3rd to 8th grade into small teams for 12 weeks of training, culminating in a 5K run. During the 12 weeks, Girls on the Run offers participants a three-part curriculum that focuses on self-confidence, healthy peer relationships, community service, and fitness.

A 2007 evaluation of over 1,000 Girls on the Run participants across 33 different sites found that participants reported improved body image and increased commitment to physical activity at the completion of the program. On a measure of physical activity over seven days, Girls on the Run participants reported a 9% increase in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity from pre-program to the five month follow-up.  To achieve this impact, we estimate a cost of between $235-$365 per girl engaged in additional physical activity.  Programs like Girls on the Run can also have significant social and financial return over time as participants are likely to lead healthier lives.

To learn more about National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and programs that are engaging youth in exercise across the country, visit the Let’s Move! blog.  For donors interesed in supporting sports and fitness programs in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative site is a great place to start learning about local efforts.

Also be sure to check out our report Donor Strategies to Prevent Childhood Obesity for more information on high-impact opportunities to support children’s health.