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MU Extension Program Helps Missourians Promote Healthy Changes

Stay Strong, Stay Healthy members support tax levy for fitness center, 5K fitness event

Oct. 24, 2011

Story Contact(s):
Emily Martin, martinem@missouri.edu, (573) 882-3346

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Stay Strong, Stay Healthy is a 10-week strength training program for middle-aged and older adults taught by University of Missouri Extension regional specialists throughout the state. The program creator, Miriam Nelson with Tufts University, is on a cross-country tour, helping local groups with “change projects” to support healthier communities. Nelson and her team are working with Tammy Roberts, MU Extension regional specialist, to organize this project in Lamar, Mo.

The project is led by a “change club,” women who participate in Stay Strong, Stay Healthy classes and want to make healthy changes regarding food and physical activity in their communities. Their “change project” is to promote a tax levy to build a community fitness center. Roberts and Nelson will help the women brainstorm ideas and plan how this can be accomplished. The change club also hosted a 5K community physical activity challenge on Friday.

Stay Strong, Stay Healthy is focused on improving the health and well-being of middle-aged and older adults through a safe, structured and effective strength training program. Participation in regular strengthening exercises will help to build muscle and increase bone density, thereby helping to prevent frailty and osteoporosis, said Steve Ball, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.

“Physical activity for older adults is especially important because most have experienced some loss of fitness as they have aged,” said Ball, Extension state specialist. “In addition, this group is the least active group in our society. Activity, especially strength training, can help older adults maintain an independent lifestyle and improve quality of life.”

At each session a prescribed set of eight upper- and lower-body strengthening exercises are completed. Participants are made to feel comfortable regardless of their current fitness level so they can safely participate and gradually build their strength, Ball said.

“Participants increase their physical activity and improve strength, balance and flexibility, resulting in reduced risk for falls, better overall health and greater independence,” Roberts said. “These health benefits decrease the likelihood of a participant entering a nursing home, which costs on average $24,455 per year in Missouri. The money saved benefits the community and keeps people contributing to society longer.”

In conjunction with her cross-country tour, Nelson released a new book, “The Social Network Diet: Change Yourself, Change the World.” Nelson and her team intend to engage thousands of women in establishing change clubs to enact healthy changes aimed at schools, parks, farmers’ markets, active transport, community programs and more.

“Lamar needs a community wellness/education center to keep families in the area and to promote a vibrant, healthy and active community,” said Edie Ogden, project participant. “We are dedicated to helping make our dream a reality.”

For more information about Stay Strong, Stay Healthy, visit: http://missourifamilies.org/sssh/

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