Approach and Results
Girls on the Run® promotes physical, emotional, social and intellectual development in 3rd through 8th grade girls. The girls complete the 12-week program with a stronger sense of identity, greater self-confidence, a healthier body image and a better knowledge of what it means to be a member of a team and a community.
Girls on the Run International has evaluated program efficacy since 2001. Girls on the Run® is currently the only positive youth development program for girls with evidence-based results. Rita Debate, Ph.D., MPH, CHES, developed a formal evaluation tool entitled “Girls on the Run: An Assessment of Self-Esteem, Body Image and Eating Attitudes.” Our evaluation is based on established and well-known measurement tools including the Rosenburg Self-Esteem Scale, Child/Adolescent Silhouette Rating Scale, and the Children’s Eating Attitude Test.
Prior to our program evaluation, the academic research in the area of girls and sports reflected two contradictory results. Girls involved in athletics have higher self-esteem and engage in fewer risky behaviors than girls who are not. Conversely, girls who become highly competitive in some sports (such as running, figure skating, gymnastics and other sports in which slim body images are admired) have a higher incidence of eating disorders than girls who are not involved in such sports. This poses a dilemma that the Girls on the Run® curricula address.
Unlike traditional athletic programs, the Girls on the Run® curricula couple physical activity with a whole-person philosophy to provide the positive benefits of physical activity without increasing the risk of unhealthy attitudes about body image and eating. Evaluation results show that participation in Girls on the Run® improves girls’ self-esteem, body size satisfaction, and physical activity behaviors to a statistically significant extent. Also noted are positive changes regarding attitudes towards physical activity, health behaviors, and empowerment.