Strong Women classes forming in Greencastle

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

Area women don't have to accept that they will become weaker as they age, experience frequent falls, develop osteoporosis, have problems with balance and their energy levels. Penn State Cooperative Extension has been offering the Strong Women Program, a community strength training series of classes for mid-life and older women. Started in Franklin County in 2006, the program has extended to various sites throughout Franklin County.

A new series is scheduled, including a Greencastle site at the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Classes meet twice weekly for six weeks and new participants are welcome in Greencastle from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Oct. 12.

The Strong Women program was developed by Dr. Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University, Boston. This research based program was designed to help increase strength, bone density, balance and energy. Not designed as a weight reduction program, the strength-training exercies promote proper body awareness, positioning, flexibility and posture and have been proven to reduce the risk for osteoporosis and related fractures. One past participant, Jane, remarked “I am so grateful and appreciative. I have found a program to help me “Grow old gracefully” with confidence.”

Designed for women 40 and older, it is intended to keep participants mobile and independent longer and to improve the quality of life as one ages. Past participants locally have varied in age from 43 to 88 years of age. Many of the participants have health issues such as knee replacements, rotor cuff problems, arthritis, lupus, heart problems, past cancer survivors, etc. The program is very adaptable to meet the physical limitations of the participants.

The PA Health Containment Council reports that the average cost of hospitalization for osteoporosis is $18,000 per hospitalization. Saving just one or two participants from potential falls makes the program worthwhile to conduct locally. Falls later in life often destroy the independency of older citizens and make them depended on assisted living requirements. One participant remarked that “I have an amazing increase in both my balance and range of motion; my upper body has gotten noticeably stronger.”

Each class also provides basic nurition information on subjects such as Whole Grains, Vitamin D, Calcium Rich Eating, Omega Fatty Acids, etc. Participants often share healthy recipes with each other. Classes are conducted by Penn State Cooperative Extension trained instructors that fit the age guidelines for the program. One participant remarked, “We're not your typical group that goes to the gym.”

American women over age 65 have a 50 percent chance of suffering from osteoporosis and the lifetime risk of fractures in women older than 50 years is nearly 40 percent. Helping to maintain bone mass and reducing the likelihood of a fracture can be done through weight bearing exercises. Participants use hand held weights and ankle weights to perform the simple exercises. All exercises are done from a sitting or standing position. Classes start with simple stretching and proceed with the exercises, concluding with cool down movements. Classes are complete within one hour and cost $45.00 for six weeks (12 classes). Sessions run for six weeks and meet twice weekly. Pre-registration is preferred but potential participants are welcomed to attend the first session to determine if the class is a good fit for them.

Area churches have been most receptive to host the Strong Women classes. Cooperative Extension is offering Strong Women classes throughout the county. For additional information or a registration brochure, contact Mary Ann Oyler or the support staff at Penn State Cooperative Extension in Chambersburg, 263-9226 Ext. 229, mko4@psu.edu

In addition to the Greencastle location, classed meet twice weekly for six weeks at the following Franklin County locations:

Chambersburg:  Classes will be from 10 to 11 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Oct. 12 at Fourth St. Church of the Brethren, 260 South 4th St.

Chambersburg: Classes will be from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m., Mondays and Wednesdays beginning Oct. 25 at TheBrethren Fellowship, 239 Lincoln Way East.

Fayetteville: Classes will be held from 9 to 10 a.m., Mondays and Wednesdays beginning Oct. 11 at New Guilford Brethren In Christ Church, 1575 Mont Alto Road.

Shippensburg: Classes will be held from 9 to 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Oct. 12 at Memorial Lutheran Church, 34 East Orange St.

Waynesboro: Classes will be held from 9 to 10 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning Oct. 12 at Faith United Methodist Church.

Mercersburg:  Classes will be held from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning Oct. 12 at First United Methodist Church.