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MU Extension program promotes exercise for people with developmental disabilities


Linda Geist
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9185

Photo available for this release:

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 promotes exercise and social skills.

Credit: University of Missouri Extension

Published: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013

Story source:

Lynda Zimmerman, 573-634-2824

FULTON, Mo. – Adults with developmental disabilities exercise 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 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 is 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 an upcoming Stay Strong, Stay Healthy class. She thought the 12 participants of Callaway County Special Services’ adult day program would benefit. Zimmerman agreed, but thought the program needed to be adapted to meet the needs of this group.

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.

Zimmerman said the class helps participants strengthen muscles and improve balance. More importantly, it provides opportunities for social interaction.

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,” she said. “I have seen how they truly love to be here. They come in very excited.”

Sessions start with simple warm-up exercises, followed by a series of repetitive motions using resistance bands and leg weights. After each set, members exchange high-fives with Zimmerman and their personal assistants. “Give yourself another big hug,” Zimmerman cries out to encourage positive reinforcement.

“The partnership between MU Extension and Callaway County Special Services Adult Enrichment program is a very valuable partnership,” said Kaufmann. “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.”

For more information about MU Extension’s Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program, go to