Are you making a health resolution for 2023? We’re intrigued with Missouri research on how strength training in a group improved strength, balance, flexibility, social support, and even sleep for older adults. Get thee to a group!

Professor Stephen Ball launched the University of Missouri’s ‘Stay Strong Stay Healthy’ strength training program way back in 2005. For years, he heard anecdotally about the physical and mental health benefits older adults got from the eight-week strength training program—now he has scientific proof.

In the study, Ball evaluated the effectiveness of the ‘Stay Strong Stay Healthy’ strength training program in a group setting among adults over 60. Participants in the classes, which last one hour and are held twice a week for eight weeks, are taught how to safely complete strength training exercises, including squats and bicep curls. Ball collaborated with the Missouri Orthopedic Institute in Columbia, Mo., to conduct the research.

By completing baseline tests for strength, balance, and flexibility before and after the program, the study found participants improved not only their physical health outcomes but also their self-confidence in their ability to exercise, which increased their physical activity in their daily lives and reduced the risk of falls, which is a major concern for aging adults.

“We help older adults maintain their independence as they age and reduce their risk of falling, which has huge financial implications as well as health implications,” Ball said. “We keep hearing from participants that in addition to feeling stronger, healthier, and more active, another major reason they enjoy the group classes is the social aspect of making friends with others their age and engaging with community members in a stress-free environment.”

The Stay Strong Stay Healthy program has reached more than 20,000 older adults since its inception. Undergraduates teach exercise courses, and graduate students help with research. Then MU Extension extends the strength training program in rural areas as well. The program has been approved by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services as an evidence-based program that can be implemented throughout the state. The program is now implemented by MU Extension faculty in Missouri, and through MU-trained facilitators in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kansas, North Carolina, and Nevada.

Older adults interested in participating in the ‘Stay Strong Stay Healthy’ program can choose courses in Columbia or by Zoom here or by emailing [email protected].
Many gyms and YMCAs offer strength training classes or coaching, too! Have a Healthy, Happy New Year!