Research study demonstrates that Girls on the Run transforms young girls' lives

By Mary Sheryl Horine

Boone, N.C. – As students prepare to head back to school, many parents are looking for after-school activities that provide a safe and structured space where children can learn skills and be physically active. Girls on the Run offers this and so much more. 

A recent independent study provides compelling evidence that Girls on the Run is highly effective at driving transformative and lasting change in the lives of third to fifth-grade girls. The program’s intentional curriculum places an emphasis on developing competence, confidence, connection, character, caring and contribution in young girls through lessons that incorporate running and other physical activities. Throughout the course of the ten-week program, girls learn critical life skills including managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others and making intentional decisions. It is the combination of the research-based curriculum, trained coaches and a commitment to serve all girls that sets Girls on the Run apart from other after-school programs.

The independent study was conducted by Maureen R. Weiss, Ph.D., a leading expert on youth development. “Being able to generalize skills learned in the program to other situations such as at school or at home is a distinguishing feature of Girls on the Run compared to traditional youth sports and school physical education, and suggests that the intentional life skills curriculum and coach-training program can serve as exemplars for other youth programs.”

“We receive countless communication from girls, parents and coaches about how our program changes lives,” said Mary Sheryl Horine, council director of Girls on the Run of the High Country. “The study findings reinforce these personal stories and provide powerful evidence that participation in Girls on the Run leads to positive changes.”

Girls on the Run of the High Country, a program of the Appalachian State University Blue Cross of NC Institute for Health and Human Services, has inspired girls in Watauga, Ashe, Avery, Allegany and Wilkes counties for 22 seasons. The program has impacted the lives of over 2,000 girls and 400 volunteer coaches. This season, Girls on the Run will be offered at nine locations. Each team will meet two times a week for 75-90 minutes either before or after school and participate in research-based lessons that use dynamic discussions and fun running games to teach life skills. The season will culminate in a 5k event that brings together family, friends and community members to celebrate the girls’ growth throughout the season.

The program fee for the fall season is $100, and scholarship funding is available to those who qualify. The program fee includes registration for the end-of-season 5k event, a shirt, water bottle and goody bag. More information about the program and registration can be found on the Girls on the Run of the High Country website at

About Blue Cross of NC Institute for Health and Human Services 

Blue Cross of NC Institute for Health and Human Services (IHHS), within Appalachian's Beaver College of Health Sciences, opened in 2008 to provide multidisciplinary research opportunities, clinical services, community outreach, and training programs related to improving the health of the regional community.  The IHHS aspires to take education and research beyond the walls of academia by engaging the very people it serves in the process of training future providers, building research relevant to rural health, and creating a sustainable culture of health through regional community partnerships in education and preventive services.

About Appalachian State University

As the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.

About Girls on the Run

Girls on the Run is a national physical activity-based positive youth development program for 3rd-8th-grade girls. Participants develop and improve competence, feel confidence in who they are, develop strength of character, respond to others and oneself with care, create positive connections with peers and adults and make a meaningful contribution to community and society. Each session is led by trained volunteer coaches who guide and mentor the girls. The ten-week program concludes with all participants completing a celebratory 5k event which gives them a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals. Girls on the Run has served over 1.2 million girls since its inception in 1996. 



GOTR 5k spring 2019
Published: Aug 15, 2019 2:00pm