A recent independent study conducted by University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Institute to Promote Athlete Health and Wellness finds Let Me Run is making a substantial positive impact in boys’ lives. A review of the professional literature revealed UNCG’s groundbreaking study to be the first published to examine healthy masculinity in boys, as well as a program’s ability to improve it.
Let Me Run is a nonprofit wellness program that inspires boys to be themselves, be active and belong. With a comprehensive curriculum that applies the power of running, the program encourages boys to develop their psychological, emotional and social health, in addition to their physical health. Twice a week for seven weeks, two trained volunteer coaches lead an elementary or middle school team through practice. Designed to amplify confidence, self-expression and respect for others, each practice includes a lesson from the Let Me Run curriculum that incorporates running, games and activities. Each fall and spring season culminates in a 5k race festival that celebrates the boys’ personal growth.
The organization seeks to break down negative societal pressures that require males to mask their authentic selves behind a performance of masculinity, in which the most praised emotions are anger, aggression and pride. Phrases like “man up,” “boys don’t cry” and “stop being a girl” serve as catalysts for this type of destructive macho-masculinity. As described by Dr. William Pollack in his book Real Boys, these unhealthy male stereotypes, which Pollack refers to as the “Boy Code,” can stand in the way of boys’ positive futures and lead to disturbing consequences such as illness, decreased learning potential, addiction and violence. These often unspoken issues lead ninety men in the U.S. to commit suicide every day, four of whom are boys under the age of 19.
UNCG’s study confirms that Let Me Run counteracts these unhealthy societal pressures in finding that:
- The Let Me Run program significantly improves boys’ attitudes and behaviors associated with healthy masculinity (e.g. unrestrictive emotionality, uninhibited affection and avoidance of physical fighting).
- Let Me Run increases boys’ vigorous physical activity levels.
- Participating in Let Me Run reduces boys’ screen time on school days.
- The Let Me Run program increases boys’ social competence.
The two-season evaluation also showed substantial improvements in Let Me Run participants’ ability to express emotions, show affection, build friendships and connect with others.
“Let Me Run nurtures the types of meaningful bonds and connections that can prevent the deadly epidemic of loneliness we’re seeing in society today,” states Let Me Run Founder Ashley Armistead. According to former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, “loneliness is associated with increased risk of premature death, and the effect on mortality is comparable to [the] impact of smoking or obesity.”
Armistead says, “Let Me Run gives boys permission to be compassionate, confident human beings with a full set of emotions. UNCG’s study backs our belief that through running and healthy communication, we can challenge society’s limiting Boy Code and inspire boys to live into their full, unique potential.”
For more information, visit LetMeRun.org.
About Let Me Run
Since it was founded in 2009, the organization has grown from one team of 14 boys in Charlotte, North Carolina, to hundreds of teams, totaling 17,000 boys across 27 states. As the program continues to grow nationwide, more boys are experiencing the holistic benefits of Let Me Run. Join the movement by starting a team at bit.ly/LetMeRunTeam.
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