Staying strong: Program helps local seniors stay fit

Monday, February 7, 2011
Mary Gosche leads an exercise class in the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program at the MU Extension Center in Jackson. (Fred Lynch)

Mary Klaproth diligently walks five days a week. She's a regular at her aerobics class. And now, for the second year in a row, the 70-year-old Jackson woman is participating in the University of Missouri Extension's Stay Strong, Stay Healthy strength training program.

"I'm nuts or dedicated. It's one or the other," she said, laughing. Klaproth turns to the 10-week exercise program to boost her balance and strength. The weekly sessions, which kicked off again last month at the extension center in Jackson, aim to improve the health -- and quality of life -- of middle-age and older adults. The program focuses on strength training, a form of exercise that offers many benefits for aging adults, yet goes unused by the majority of that population.

During the hour-long classes, the 50-and-older participants walk, exercise with weights and stretch in a slow and methodical structure. Mary Gosche, who leads the classes, said participants are assessed on everything from balance to agility to flexibility at both the beginning and end of the program. Last year's participants improved in the majority of the categories, she said.

The program started at Tufts University in Boston, in 2002 and was adopted three years later by the University of Missouri Extension. Since then, 1,180 participants have enrolled in the statewide program, according to Gosche, human development specialist with the University of Missouri Extension. And participants are seeing results: 94 percent feel physically stronger; 85 percent have more energy; and 86 percent feel more flexible.

The program continues to gain interest. The current session was capped at 20 participants, which includes about a half-dozen returning members. "The time goes quickly, and before you know it the hour is done," Klaproth said. "And then you feel good because you've done something for yourself."

Ankle weights are a part of the exercise class in the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program at the MU Extension Center in Jackson (Fred Lynch)
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