Boston GLOW is a breeding ground for the modern day superwoman. GLOW fosters opportunities for women of all ages to become empowered community leaders and active world citizens.

Real Girl Leaders - Mariam Khan: Building Confidence Through Exercise

Today is the 7th week of our Real Girl Leaders series.  Today we feature Mariam Khan a 16 year old from Somerville, MA. 

Below is Mariam’s response to the question, “If you had one year and $1000 what would you change about the role of women and girls in your community”. 

Mariam’s idea was selected as one of ten IGNITE Change Finalists through Boston GLOW and was awarded a scholarship and leadership mentor.  All awarded projects were written by girls in Boston, Cambridge or Somerville ages 14-19 who created a fundable and actionable plan to create change.

Women’s Confidence Through Exercise

By Mariam Khan

Lack of movement destroys the goodMariam_Khan.jpg condition of every human being while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it. – Plato

Plato was absolutely correct when he emphasized the importance of physical exercise for a healthy body.  Exercise has been an important part of life for centuries, but now has become especially pertinent for modern day Americans.  According to a 2011 statistic found by the US Centers for Disease and Protection, more than one in three Americans are obese.  So, what can Americans do to prevent themselves form obesity and its accompanying health risks such as heart disease, depression and type 2 Diabetes.  In many cases, the answer is simple.  Exercise.  Exercise promotes a healthy lifestyle and has been found in many studies to have therapeutic and anti-stress effects.  It can increase brain function and memory, build self-esteem, improve body image, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and reduce weight gain (7 Mind Blowing Benefits of Exercise, Deborah Kotz, US News)

While the gym is a viable option for exercise for some people, it can seem like a daunting option for others, especially women.  In most gyms, which are male-dominated, women can feel uncomfortable while exercising because they are intimidated by onlookers, may not know how to use the machines, or lack self-confidence.  Additionally, women face constraints such as expensive gym membership fees, time issues, family responsibilities and insecurity about body image.  From my own experiences, I have often seen girls voluntarily give up exercising and playing sports in gym class because they have feared boys making fun of them for being slow or lacking skill.  Seeing this behavior made me feel frustrated because they lost spirit and motivation so quickly without believing in themselves.   Unfortunately, they were letting the stereotype of girls being athletically inept come true.  What they needed to realize is that with self-confidence, effort and persistence they can be just as athletic as boys.  To help females overcome this false image of their athleticism they should exercise in an environment without feeling insecure about themselves.

Establishing a free women’s athletic club would be the perfect solution for this problem because it would bring women together to exercise in a safe environment, alleviate stress and build health exercising habits.  From this club, women, ages fourteen and up can participate in sports activities such as basketball and running.  Additionally, the club can offer cardio work outs, dance and socializing time.  This club would be the perfect place to work out after a long day of work to alleviate stress or have fun working out.  The sports club will help boost women’s athletic spirit and help them form a great support network of peers to motivate each other to stay fit.  Women can burn calories but at the same time learn healthy habits from each other, share their work-out experiences with each other, and have fun.  The main focus of this sports club is to make women feel confident about their body image and health.  The work out classes would be taught by volunteer instructors or college athletes.  The focus of the club is to encourage women to exercise once for about two hours a week during the evenings for eleven months during the winder between November and March, a time when a lot of people usually have a hard time finding ways to be active because of the weather.  We would rent from a recreational center in Cambridge like the Cambridge Community Center or YWCA.  This would work for our budget because renting a professional gym would be too expensive.  To begin the process of getting women to join the women’s athletic club, first I would put advertisements and flier in libraries, churches, schools, malls and local community centers.  Women interested would contact me via email to RSVP their attendance to the club work out sessions.  Then, I would contact the trainers and college athletes who would lead the classes and set up a schedule with them for the training sessions.  The trainers would also train me and other people such as my sister who would participate in managing the club, so that we are also available to help other women do the exercises.  Then., with the participants and trainers assigned, and the space for the club arranged, I would use the rest of the $1,000 budget to buy other items needed for the program such as the stereo system, gift cards for the volunteer instructors, and I would prepare for the sessions by planning all exercises and activities such as stretch routines, running, yoga and dance.

 Lastly, if the budgeting works out and we have some money left over at the end then I want t o create t-shirts to sell at a premium to members in order to raise funds to make this club sustainable.  Additionally, I could ask local shops for sponsorship and donations to help financially support the club.  To raise money we could also have healthy bake sales for the club members. 

Overall, the mission of this club is to empower women through athletics and exercise.  Women who participate in the club gain confidence about their body image, stay fit especially during the winter months, and build meaningful connections with other women in the community to encourage other women to participate in the club. At the end of the program women should feel motivated to make exercise an important component of their everyday lives, in order to lead healthy and happy lives.   

To learn more about Mariam or the 9 other 2013 IGNITE Change Finalists, to help support their projects or find out how YOU too can IGNITE Change, contact Annie at


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