West Oak Lane rec center hosts Philly Girls in Motion sessions

West Oak Lane girls are gearing up for fitness this spring through Philly Girls in Motion, an initiative that brings young girls together to exercise and learn healthy habits.

The eight-week workout session will be held at the Simons Community Recreation Center, located at 7200 Woolston Ave. It features group fitness sessions including yoga, kickboxing, Zumba, boot camp and Flip Fitness.

Girls between the ages of 8 and 14 will participate in scheduled fitness sessions each week, and attend monthly “Healthy Habits” workshops. Topics include “Healthy Meals on the Go,” “Shopping on a Budget” and cooking demonstrations.

“Spring is the perfect time to get the whole family involved in exercise and eating healthy. The weather is getting nicer, local fruits and vegetables are more plentiful, and daylight is longer everyday, which is great for outdoor activity,” said Beth Devine, creator and executive director of Philly Girls in Motion.

The program’s roots

Initiated in 2009, the project started out as a pilot in only two locations. Today, the group has expanded to five locations.

“We’re trying to grow smart. We started working with maybe 20 girls,” said Devine. “Our last fall session had over 70 girls.”

The group operates in partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Volunteers are found from networking with groups like the Philadelphia Health Department and Drexel University Medical School.

“We have volunteers who are students, marathon runners — a triathlete who has a personal experience with weight loss,” Devine said. “We look for people who will motivate the girls to be active like they are.”

Devine noted that all instructors are certified in what they teach, and that their partner, CHOP’s Healthy Weight Program, provides instructors for the workshops. She would like to see the group expand as long as they could have enough volunteers to run effectively at all of their sites: “We want to make sure we do it right.”

One of the challenges faced by instructors in the program is motivating girls who are classified as obese. “It’s a different ballgame than with kids who are already on the school basketball team,” said Devine.

After the spring session is completed — it runs from April 9 until May 30 — the girls are invited to run in a 5K/10K event called “See Chicks Run!” on June 3 in Fairmount Park.

“One thing I hear all the time is ‘it’s so needed,'” she said. “They don’t even have gym class anymore.”

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