|For many parents, getting children to be more active is a chore, especially when kids prefer to watch TV, play video games, or read books inside. To combat their children’s sedentary lifestyles, parents often turn to organized sports and after-school programs, which often have surprising side effects.
In Colorado, girls in elementary and middle school benefit from the after-school program Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run aims to help girls run a 5k race at the end of the program, with coaches to help them build up strength, stamina, and speed. The girls enjoy playing games that incorporate life lessons about nutrition and health with activity like hopping on one foot and running into one another.
Each Girls on the Run session incorporates talks about things that are bothering the participants, such as self-esteem, body image, and peer pressure. The girls set goals for their runs, and every session begins with a healthy snack. Girls are encouraged to say something “crazy” following an equally crazy statement, such as “I can’t do math” or whatever else is bothering them.
In addition to self-esteem affirming group talks, the physical activity boosts the girls’ self-confidence. The more physical activity children between 10 and 16 participate in, the higher their self-efficacy and self-esteem are reported to be. This is especially significant for girls, who are twice as likely as boys to become depressed by age 15.
The benefits of physical activity aren’t limited to just running. Activities like gymnastics, horseback riding, and other organized sports carry the same benefits. Some parents may find these activities to be prohibitively expensive, with gymnastics at a professional gym costing between $12,000 and $15,000 a year. Of course, if the child is not aiming for Olympic-level competition, parents can find quality programs at less-expensive facilities in a more affordable range. Experts recommend looking around before writing off an activity as too expensive.