Stay strong, stay healthy

New MU Extension fitness program starts May 23.

People in chair pose in a gym.

Freshman nutrition and fitness major Audrey Lamberson, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, leads an MU Extension Stay Strong, Stay Healthy Wellness workout in McKee Gymnasium.

Research has linked a sedentary lifestyle to a number of health concerns, including obesity, elevated blood pressure and high blood sugar. Now, University of Missouri Extension faculty are bringing a decade-long, state-wide fitness program to the Mizzou campus. Faculty and staff can combat issues related to sedentary lifestyles while earning points toward the MU Wellness Incentive program.


“Any movement is good movement,” said Liz Peterson, an MU Extension associate and program director. “The Stay Strong, Stay Healthy classes are focused on improving the health and well-being of middle-aged and older adults through a safe, structured and effective strength-training program. It’s a judgement-free and competition-free zone.”

The Stay Strong, Stay Healthy Program is based on the results of scientific strength-training research studies and was adapted by MU Extension from a program offered at Tuft University in Massachusetts. The program has been offered around the state of Missouri for 10 years, and the results from older and sedentary middle-aged adults have shown that the strength training offered by the program leads to increased muscle mass, improved strength, flexibility and balance, improved mood and attitude, and increased levels of energy.

“If we can make someone physically stronger, we are going to improve their flexibility and their balance,” said Susan Mills-Gray, a state Extension nutrition specialist. “If we can improve flexibility and balance, we are going to prevent falls. If we can prevent people from falling, they can live independently longer and reduce their overall healthcare costs.”

Wellness incentives

Faculty and staff can earn 100 points toward their Wellness Incentive program for completion of the program.

“These classes are not only a way for older adults to build muscle in a safe, instruction-based class, they also offer a circle of support and bring people together from across campus,” Peterson said. “Everyone is supportive of one another and works toward the same goals of self-improvement and an improved quality of life.”

Jeanie Francis, an MU retiree and three-time Stay Strong, Stay Healthy participant, says the classes have helped her when traveling on vacation and in her daily life.

“My husband and I went to Chicago for five days for a vacation,” Francis said. “I was able to walk everywhere we wanted and climb stairs. It was a huge difference compared to the last several times we have traveled. I also have noticed an improvement in bending my left leg when tying my shoelaces, carrying items, climbing stairs and stepping onto the sidewalk.”

Feel Bbetter, look better

Peterson says one of the most rewarding parts of teaching Stay Strong, Stay Healthy classes is seeing the boost in self-esteem from participants.

“When a lot of people first join the class, they are apprehensive about their ability to build muscle,” Peterson said. “It is rewarding when they start to realize that they can still be proactive about their health. We have many participants who continuously sign up for sessions of classes. However, it also is rewarding to hear from participants who no longer attend the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy classes. The classes often serve as springboards for participants and motivate them to join a gym and do strength exercises on their own.”

The next Stay Strong, Stay Healthy session of classes begin on May 23. The program costs $50. Register for the class online.

Pilot sessions of an advanced version of Stay Strong, Stay Healthy also are underway. Contact Liz Peterson at for more information.

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