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  • Author: Sarah M. Espinoza x
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Girls on the Run: Impact of a Physical Activity Youth Development Program on Psychosocial and Behavioral Outcomes

Maureen R. Weiss, Lindsay E. Kipp, Alison Phillips Reichter, Sarah M. Espinoza, and Nicole D. Bolter

Purpose: Girls on the Run is an after-school physical activity-based positive youth development program designed to enhance girls’ social, psychological, and physical development. We evaluated the effectiveness of the program by employing a longitudinal design and mixed methods. Methods: Girls (N = 203; aged 8–11 y) completed survey measures of positive youth development constructs (competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring), physical activity, and sedentary behavior prior to, at the end of, and 3 months after the season. Subsamples of girls, coaches, caregivers, and school personnel participated in focus groups. Coaches completed information about their team’s community impact project and number of girls who completed the season-ending 5k. Results: The full sample improved in confidence and connection, whereas girls who started below the preseason average showed the greatest gains from preseason to postseason on all measures, and scores were maintained or continued to improve at follow-up. All stakeholders in focus groups corroborated evidence of season-long improvement in social and emotional behaviors and health outcomes. Involvement in the community impact project contributed to girls’ growth in character and empathy skills. Conclusion: Findings provide empirical evidence that Girls on the Run is effective in promoting positive youth development, including season-long and lasting change in competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and physical activity, especially among girls who exhibited lower preseason scores than their peers.

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Following Insufficiently Active Adolescents: What Predicts Whether They Meet Adult Activity Guidelines When They Grow Up?

Sarah M. Espinoza, Marla E. Eisenberg, Alina Levine, Iris W. Borowsky, Daheia J. Barr-Anderson, Melanie M. Wall, and Dianne Neumark-Sztainer

Background: We investigated the percentage of insufficiently active adolescents who became young adults meeting moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) guidelines. We also explored adolescent psychosocial and environmental factors that predicted MVPA guideline adherence in young adulthood. Methods: Participants included N = 1001 adolescents (mean age = 14.1 y) reporting < 7 hours per week of MVPA and followed (8 y later) into young adulthood through Project EAT. We examined mean weekly hours of MVPA, MVPA change between adolescence and young adulthood, and the proportion of participants meeting MVPA guidelines in young adulthood. With sex-stratified logistic regression, we tested 11 adolescent psychosocial and environmental factors predicting meeting MVPA guidelines in young adulthood. Results: Overall, 55% of insufficiently active adolescents became young adults meeting MVPA guidelines. On average, participants reported 3.0 hours per week of MVPA, which improved to 3.8 hours per week in young adulthood. Among female participants, higher MVPA in adolescence and stronger feelings of exercise compulsion predicted greater odds of meeting adult MVPA guidelines (odds ratioMVPA = 1.18; odds ratiocompulsion = 1.13). Among female and male participants, perceived friend support for activity in adolescence predicted greater odds of meeting adult MVPA guidelines (odds ratiofemale = 1.12; odds ratiomale = 1.26). Conclusions: Insufficiently active adolescents can later meet adult guidelines. Interventions that increase perceived friend support for activity may benefit individuals across development.