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Combat the effects of aging

  • A new program called StrongWomen, which aims to help men and women age 40 and older live a healthy life, is starting in Carbon County on March 28. METROGRAPHICS
    A new program called StrongWomen, which aims to help men and women age 40 and older live a healthy life, is starting in Carbon County on March 28. METROGRAPHICS
Published March 20. 2017 02:46PM

It is important to continue a workout routine and healthy lifestyle as you age.

That's because starting in your early 40s, women begin to lose 0.25 to 0.33 pounds of muscle a year, which is replaced by fat.

To combat the effects of aging and help men and women continue to live a healthy life well into their senior years, the Penn State Extension office and Blue Mountain Health System is partnering together for the StrongWomen/Growing Stronger program.

"StrongWomen is a nationally recognized program and we are bringing it to Carbon County for the first time," Keri Byrne, nutrition education adviser at Penn State Extension, said recently. "This program offers both women and men the opportunity to learn about bone health and nutrition, as well as engage in physical activity."

The body

A person's body, as it ages, tends to lose muscle mass more quickly than a person in their 20s and 30s, and this can set the person up for problems down the road if preventive measures aren't taken early on.

It could lead to osteoporosis, arthritis, sarcopenia and loss of strength and balance.

"One in every two women will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point in their life," Byrne said, adding that there are ways to prevent such problems. "To help, women should do weight-bearing exercises such as walking and strength training. These sources of activity have been shown to maintain or even increase bone density."

Almost half of adults in the country do not get sufficient physical activity, meaning that down the road it could lead to poor muscle tone, reduced strength and complicate daily life tasks, increasing frailty and the possibility of falls.

The research

Byrne said that Dr. Miriam Nelson, the director of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Prevention, first looked at the benefits in strength training of postmenopausal woman in 1994.

"The results showed that when they compared women in the exercises group to sedentary group, the women in the exercise group increased in strength, bone density, muscle mass and balance," she said.

Nelson used her findings to develop the StrongWomen/Growing Stronger program, which benefits both men and women age 40 and older by teaching them proper nutrition and leads them in strength training exercises to promote strength as they age.

"By strength training, it improves and increases muscle mass," Byrne said. "If you don't use your muscles, they're going to wear away."

The program has found improvements physically, mentally and emotionally in its participants.

"It improves strength and balance, bone density, arthritis symptoms, metabolic rate, glucose control," said Byrne. "In addition, it also improves sleep, level of energy and promotes social groups."

The class

StrongWomen will be holding classes at the Country Inn and Suites, 1619 Interchange Road, Lehighton, beginning March 28.

It will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 2 p.m. for either six-week or 12-week sessions.

Byrne said they are currently looking to start additional classes and locations in the future.

Participants will need at least one adjustable ankle weight, one set of dumbbells (either 1-, 3- or 5-pound weights), a yoga mat or bath towel, water bottle and comfortable clothing that allows them to move with ease.

Class will include a warm-up session, followed by eight to 12 strength training exercises and a cool down. It will also include discussions on nutrition and health topics.

Byrne said that participants will do a preassessment and post assessment to see where they were when they started and how they did overall.

Participants up to 69 must provide their medical history, informed consent and a physical activity readiness questionnaire.

For those who answered yes on any questions in the questionnaire or are over 69 years old, a physician authorization form must also be included.

The cost for the program is $60 for the six weeks and $120 for the 12 weeks.

For more information on the StrongWomen program, visit http://extension.psu.edu/health/strongwomen/events and search for Lehighton or call Byrne at 570-421-6430.

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