Program for girls stresses physical fitness, self esteem

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by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on October 24, 2009 at 12:01 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Young girls often feel intense social pressure to fit in and look pretty. Now there's a program that's helping girls break out of the mold and feel healthier.

Life lessons and physical fitness are all combined in this after-school program called Girls on the Run.

"We have lesson topics on healthy habits, so physical health, positively expressing emotion, their values," said Amber Swim, Girls on the Run

The aim is prevention of adolescent health issues, such as eating disorders, depression, teen pregnancy and substance abuse.

Research shows girls in the program are more likely to be active, more satisfied with their own body size, and have improved self esteem.  

They don't have to be athletes to join.

"I used to be just a couch potato, and sit on the couch and go to school, and learn about bones and stuff. but I would never exercise," said Raven.

By December they'll be ready for a 5-K fun run. Families and coaches run and walk alongside the girls who all wear race number one.

"I feel proud that everyone in third grade and fourth grade looks up to me when we run," said Sarah.

It's that combined benefit of fitness and self esteem that appeals to mom, Debra Diederichs.. 

"It's what they have instilled in her now, that she can take with her to middle school and high school, and into womanhood," said Deiderichs, mother of fourth grader, Renee.

Right now there are thirteen local sites for girls on the run. The next chance for girls to join the program is in spring. But everyone can do the fun run in December.    

The program is co-sponsored locally by Seattle Children's Hospital.

Fees for families are on a sliding scale, and girls on the run scholarships are available.

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