Stay Strong, Stay Healthy uses exercise to improve participants’ quality of life
MU Extension nutrition specialist Lynda Zimmerman coaches Randal Schraer, a participant in an adaptive fitness program for developmentally disabled adults in Callaway County. The 10-week program promoted exercise and social skills to help participants improve their well-being and overall quality of life.
Adults with developmental disabilities exercised their bodies and social skills through weekly strength-training sessions at the University of Missouri Extension Center in Callaway County.
Extension nutrition specialist Lynda Zimmerman adapted MU Extension’s popular Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program to meet the needs of Callaway County residents who are developmentally disabled. She said she hopes that the program will be used statewide.
Stay Strong, Stay Healthy focuses on improving the health and well-being of middle-aged and older adults through a safe, structured and effective strength-training program. The 10-week program was modeled after a similar program developed by researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science at Tufts University.
Julia Kaufmann, executive director of Callaway County Special Services, contacted Zimmerman after learning about a successful Stay Strong, Stay Healthy class. She thought the participants of Callaway County Special Services’ adult day program would benefit. Zimmerman agreed, but said she thought the program needed to be adapted to meet the needs of this group.
“I was pleased to see the program is research-based and offers a quality level of programming. This kind of program is important because it broadens the scope of what is offered to them.”
– Julia Kaufmann
According to a 2010 report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of adults with disabilities engage in no leisure-time physical activities.
“Everybody needs exercise, and everybody benefits from this Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said the class helps participants strengthen muscles and improve balance. More importantly, it provides opportunities for social interaction.
“Many of these individuals have problems with their balance, so I’m conscious of that and try to work in exercises that are going to help stabilize them,” Zimmerman said.
Kaufmann said that participants look forward to the weekly sessions and have noticeably better attitudes and self-esteem after attending class.
“I have seen such tremendous growth in these individuals,” Kaufmann said. “I have seen how they truly love to be here. They come in very excited.”
Zimmerman maintained an environment of positive reinforcement and encouraged participants after each exercise.
“Teaching this class has been very rewarding for me personally; to see the growth of these individuals,” Zimmerman said.
In FY 2014, the program reached more than 600 people with disabilities who are over the age of 50 to help them reverse the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
“The partnership between MU Extension and Callaway County Special Services Adult Enrichment program is very valuable,” Kaufmann said. “I was pleased to see the program is research-based and offers a quality level of programming. This kind of program is important because it broadens the scope of what is offered to them. We are always looking for opportunities.”
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