We have SO MUCH great news to share with you about our after school program, Smart Fit Girls! If you missed our year one in review article, check out this article describing the program and how it got started.
For those of you who just need a little reminder, Smart Fit Girls is our after school program aimed at improving self-esteem and body image in adolescent girls. In addition to participating in activities to improve their mental health, the girls learn about anatomy, nutrition, and various forms of physical activity, with an emphasis on resistance training. We believe the world could benefit from having more empowered, strong women around and one of the best ways to do that is by starting young. If you’re a woman, you’re probably nodding your head right now (rather vigorously, I’m sure) in agreement. J If you’re a man, think about your daughter, your sister, your wife, your niece, and/or your mom. We know you want them to feel more confident and beautiful in their bodies. Below we’ve included a brief update about, as well as researching supporting, Smart Fit Girls!
This spring Smart Fit Girls is being offered at four schools (two in Colorado and two in South Carolina). We continue to collect pre and post measurements to assess the impact of our program and to learn what we can do to improve. We have worked hard on developing our program so that one day (soon-we promise!), anyone who is interested in being an SFG coach can apply to do so.
A commonly reported barrier to youth participating in afterschool programs is cost. In an effort to combat that barrier, we are continually searching for funding sources and volunteer coaches. One funding source we are actively pursuing is grant funding. We are working diligently on becoming a non-profit organization (a registered 501(C)(3)) so that we are eligible to apply for grants that match the mission and vision of Smart Fit Girls. Another funding source we will be pursuing this spring is crowdfunding. We’ve been working with Community Funded to build a crowdfunding platform that will show the public just how important Smart Fit Girls is, and why donating money to this program will positively impact the lives of adolescent girls throughout the U.S. No really…every bit of support (including sharing our posts and helping spread the word) and donations help!
Finally, being the researchers we are, we thought we’d include some evidence-based research to demonstrate a few of the benefits of our program.
Benefits of our program
Increased physical activity.
The health benefits of being physically active throughout the lifespan are widely known. Individuals who are highly physically active are more likely to have greater self-esteem, better body image, and increased physical activity self-efficacy [1, 2]. Currently, the average PE program provides less than 12% of the recommended daily amount of physical activity, with adolescent girls being the least active group . Did you know that overall physical activity levels also drop significantly during adolescence, particularly for girls? A recent study found that girls participated in 2.5 hours less physical activity per week compared to boys . Anyone else think that’s ridiculous??? So, during every SFG session, our girls spend ~45-60 minutes being active. A majority of this active time is focused on weight training but we also understand the importance of active play and have allocated time for free play as well.
Regular physical activity and active play has been shown to contribute to academic achievement and reduce attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [5, 6]. One potential reason for these effects is the greater production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that results from being physically active. Moderate to vigorous physical activity has been shown to promote the production of BDNF, which aids in the creation of new brain cells and promotes memory retention and learning .
During our program, the girls learn about anatomy, nutrition, and different formats of weight training. More importantly (in our opinionJ), they have the opportunity to discuss psychosocial components of health, including self-esteem and body image. Having a high self-esteem has been shown to lead to many positive outcomes, including improved social relationships, occupational success, and academic achievement [7, 8]. Self-esteem has also been shown to have a positive association with body image; those who demonstrate high levels of self-esteem are more likely to report a positive body image [9, 10]. In a recent study, ~67% of adolescent girls reported being dissatisfied with their body . Can you believe that?!? We find this to be absolutely UNACCEPTABLE; hence the creation of Smart Fit Girls. 😉
Studies have also shown that girls spend more of their free time on homework and studying than boys (shocker, right?) . Therefore by incorporating a learning component into Smart Fit Girls, we are empowering the girls to make educated decisions regarding their health and wellbeing, which includes learning the importance and power of self-love and body acceptance. We figure if we’re going to be teaching them about nutrition, anatomy and weight training, they may as well also be learning how to love themselves and treat their bodies with compassion at the same time. 🙂
If you have any questions or thoughts about our Smart Fit Girls, please feel free to leave a
1. Warburton, D.E., C.W. Nicol, and S.S. Bredin, Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ, 2006. 174: p. 801-9.
2. Campbell, A. and H.A. Hausenblas, Effects of exercise interventions on body image: a meta-analysis. J Health Psychol, 2009. 14(6): p. 780-93.
3. Tudor-Locke, C., et al., Children’s pedometer-determined physical activity during the segmented school day. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2006. 38(10): p. 1732-8.
4. Ferrar, K.E., T.S. Olds, and J.L. Walters, All the stereotypes confirmed: differences in how Australian boys and girls use their time. Health Educ Behav, 2012. 39(5): p. 589-95.
5. Hillman, C.H., K.I. Erickson, and A.F. Kramer, Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition. Nat Rev Neurosci, 2008. 9(1): p. 58-65.
6. Ratey, J.J.a.H., E., Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. 2008, NY: Little, Brown, and Company.
7. Trzesniewski, K.H., M.B. Donnellan, and R.W. Robins, Stability of self-esteem across the life span. J Pers Soc Psychol, 2003. 84(1): p. 205-20.
8. Orth, U., R.W. Robins, and K.F. Widaman, Life-span development of self-esteem and its effects on important life outcomes. J Pers Soc Psychol, 2012. 102(6): p. 1271-88.
9. Mendelson, B.K., D.R. White, and M.J. Mendleson, Children’s global self-esteem predicted by body-esteem but not by weight. Percept Mot Skills, 1995. 80(1): p. 97-8.
10. Mendelson, B.K. and D.R. White, Relation between body-esteem and self-esteem of obese and normal children. Percept Mot Skills, 1982. 54(3): p. 899-905.
11. Bearman, S.K., et al., The Skinny on Body Dissatisfaction: A Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Girls and Boys. J Youth Adolesc, 2006. 35(2): p. 217-229.