Implementing StrongWomen to Prevent and Manage Osteoporosis

Lifestyle program strengthens bones; reaches rural areas of Pennsylvania.
Implementing StrongWomen to Prevent and Manage Osteoporosis - Articles


Public Health Problem

  • Osteoporosis causes bones to become porous and increases the likelihood of a costly and disabling fracture. People who have osteoporosis may not know it until their bones become so brittle that a fall causes a bone to break.
  • Getting weight-bearing physical activity and an adequate amount of the nutrients necessary for bone health, such as calcium, are positive factors that help women prevent and manage osteoporosis.
  • Over half the Pennsylvania women with osteoporosis are not physically active enough to benefit their bones and few are eating the recommended amounts of calcium- rich foods.


  • Penn State Extension and the Pennsylvania Department of Health have collaborated for several years to implement the StrongWomen Program which applies the research on the benefits of strength training for older women to a community-based program using a supportive approach to help middle-aged and older women make lifestyle changes in exercise and eating habits.
  • The program promotes bone-strengthening activities and incorporates education on the importance of eating bone-building foods. It seeks to get each participant to adopt at least one health promoting eating habit and one regular activity to increase physical strength and bone health.
  • In one county example, the Wyoming County Community Alliance and Wyoming County Extension Office bring the StrongWomen program to four rural sites located near senior citizen housing and hold them in cooperation with the Area Agency on Aging and the Housing Authority. These agencies provide in-kind support and disseminate information on the program to health professionals.


  • Sixty percent of participating women increased their fitness ability as measured by a fitness test, a benefit to their bones and cost-effective for prevention of other chronic diseases as noted in a recent study of community-based physical activity programs.
  • A majority of women completing the program report improved eating habits and increased selection of healthy, bone-building foods and many also reported better health and feeling physically stronger.
  • Hard-to-reach rural women now have better access to a research-based program to improve bone health. Leveraging of local funding and training of community volunteers added resources to implement StrongWomen in additional outlying areas.