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Consider the StrongWomen Program to Improve your Health

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Posted: August 11, 2011

By 2020 half of all Americans over 50 will have weak bones, making us at a higher risk for fractures. One in every five people with a hip fracture ends up in a nursing home. But, increasing age does not necessarily mean a decline in physical fitness thanks to programs like the StrongWomen™ Program. Developed by Dr. Miriam Nelson at Tufts University and delivered by Penn State Extension, this community based strength training program puts scientific research into practical application. Dramatic improvements in age associated conditions such as osteoporosis, arthritis and weight gain are being reported as a result of the program.

Strong bones allow us to move and protect our organs from injury. If we do not take care of our bones with a healthy diet and exercise, the bones may become fragile and break easily. Weakened bones are more difficult to heal and make strong again. A diet that includes enough calcium and vitamin D along with weight bearing physical exercise can prevent problems later in life. Risk factors for osteoporosis include underweight, Caucasian or Asian origin, smoking, excessive alcohol, broken bone after age 50, early menopause for women, low calcium intake, and medications such as steroids, thyroid medications, antiepileptic medications, and immunosuppressive agents. Scientific research has demonstrated that exercise with weights will increase strength, muscle mass, and bone density. Performed just twice a week, strength training helps reverse the physical changes associated with growing older.

The program consists of strength training exercises and nutrition lessons at each class. A different nutrition topic is discussed and a handout with additional information is available to take home. The exercise portion of the class includes a five-minute warm-up, and 8-12 strength training exercises that work each of the major muscle groups in the body. Equipment used includes free weights, ankle weights and floor mats. The exercises also promote proper body awareness, positioning, flexibility and posture. The workout is completed with a five minute cool-down. Most classes meet twice weekly for 12 weeks.

A StrongWomen™ informational meeting is usually scheduled a few weeks before the first class. To find out more information about programs in your area, contactyour local Penn State Extension office.

Nancy Wiker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Lancaster County