New study shows value of physical activity initiatives like GirlTrek and Black Girls Run

Sisters who workout together are more likely to win when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. In two reports, one from 2015 and one new  study result published in June 2016, the findings from an ongoing study show the clear benefits of group support when it comes to sticking with a physical activity program for African American women.

The Women’s Lifestyle Physical Activity Program for African-American Women is a clinical trial being conducted at Rush University’s College of Nursing. For the research, 288 black women, ages 40 to 65, who were free of any signs of pulmonary or cardiovascular disease, were enrolled in the study to assess factors that encouraged physical activity.

The women participated in six group meetings, delivered over 48 weeks, with either 11 personal motivational calls, 11 automated motivational messages, or no calls between meetings. To measure levels of physical activity, the research team used questionnaires and accelerometers (a technology that monitors steps). Weight and body composition at baseline were measured at 24 weeks and 48 weeks.

At 48 weeks, with a 90 percent participation level, the women had maintained their weight and increased their levels of physical activity. Of the three forms of support—personal calls, automated calls or group meetings—the group meetinga alone proved to be “a powerful intervention for increasing physical activity and preventing weight gain.”

Staying the Course

The Rush study focused exclusively on black women, but it is one of a number of studies that show that group or buddy support helps people stick with exercise regimens. Experts say that positive feedback and working out in a social environment that supports physical activity helps people stick with a program and believe that they can accomplish more as time goes on.

While the women in the Rush study maintained, rather than lost weight, staving off weight gain can also lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, hypertension and other health problems.

A Stanford University study also found that women who mastered weight-maintenance skills were less likely to backslide and regain weight if they did choose to embark on a weight loss program.

The study supports the importance and value of programs like Black Girls Run and Girltrek that bring black women together to take part in group physical activity programs, whether its running, walking, hiking or other ways of getting together to burn a few calories, get moving and have some fun.