Physical Activity by Girls for Girls

Power Up for 30 Middle School Girls Pilot

Using lessons learned from Power Up for 30, a statewide coordinated physical activity initiative, HealthMPowers expanded the model to focus on increasing physical activity in adolescent girls through programming at one school-based site and one out of school (OST) site using youth engagement strategies.

Northbrook Middle School in Gwinnett County implemented a before school intervention.
Joseph B. Whitehead Boys & Girls Club in South Atlanta implemented an after-school program.

Thirty MS girls, ages 11 to 14 years, were recruited for participation in the “Power Up for 30 Middle School Girls Physical Activity Project” at two sites facilitated by HealthMPowers coordinators.

HealthMPowers and its community partners successfully designed and tested the Power Up for 30 Middle School Girls’ pilot program from January to December 2018. During the pilot, the middle school girls were engaged in planning and implementing action steps for creating an out-of-school and school-based physical activity program.

The girls used the design thinking process to examine barriers and motivators to getting girls physically active. this process allowed the girls to be both physical activity learners and leaders. The resulting program increased physical activity opportunities, girls’ ability to be mentors and role models, daily steps, leadership and skills-building.


  • Girls from one club developed a Double Dutch mentoring program so successful that it was expanded to 12 more clubs with ~300 participants.
  • Girls led a site survey to seek input from their peers.
    • Only 40 percent of girls said physical activity was fun on the pre-survey, compared to 100 percent at the end.
    • 80 percent of girls said, “I get embarrassed doing physical activity in front of others” before the program. At the end, no participant agreed with this phrase.
  • Goals and milestones were set by the girls, and steps increased by 50%.


The girls at Northbrook were responsible for Fit Club activities and attendance, which nearly doubled in size. See them in action in Empowered Girls! a video created by the Fit Girls Club.

Lessons Learned

  • Girls lack access to relevant physical activity opportunities that appealed to girls.
  • Girls really do enjoy being active when the opportunity is provided.
  • Girls enjoy motivating each other.
  • Girls enjoy being active together, in a space for girls only.
  • Exposure to options is key for girls to develop their own program.
  • Girls enjoy competition in a group setting in non-traditional activities but shy away from individual competition.
  • Teachers must be trained to advocate for and engage girls as leaders—allowing the girls to be the change agents rather than the adult.

Continuing to Innovate

Rather than adults designing another physical activity program that doesn’t work for girls today, The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation and partners have teamed up to discover how to motivate and almost 200,000 middle school girls across the state of Georgia to get moving by designing something by them, for them.

GEM, Girls Empowering Movement, is the next generation of physical activity for middle school girls.

Learn More about GEM