Stay Strong, Stay Healthy (SSSH) aims to provide older adults with access to a safe, structured and effective exercise program capable of building muscle and increasing bone density, thus decreasing frailty, osteoporosis and the risk of falls.

SSSH helps participants meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s physical activity recommendations, which call for strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups at least two days a week in addition to aerobic activities such as walking or swimming. The CDC’s 2014 National Health Interview Survey indicates that only 9.7 percent of Americans 65 and up meet those physical activity guidelines. That statistic will encompass a growing number of people during the next few decades. The nation’s elderly population, estimated at 43.1 million in 2012, will jump to 83.7 million in 2050, according to a 2014 U.S. Census Bureau report.

SSSH strives to meet the need for effective community-based exercise programs that such demographic data highlights. SSSH challenges participants through incremental increases in exercise volume and intensity. Led by a certified instructor, participants complete a warmup, a prescribed set of upper- and lower-body strengthening exercises and a cool-down. In addition to group courses held twice a week, participants are encouraged to complete the program on their own once a week. After the course ends, participants are encouraged to continue the program at home or with a community group.

Results published in peer-reviewed journal articles demonstrate the physical and mental benefits participants experience after this exercise program. SSSH has been approved as an evidence-based intervention by SNAP-Ed and is included in the SNAP-Ed Toolkit. University of Missouri Extension added a second level of the program in 2009 to meet the demand and need for advanced exercises. Participants who complete the second level of SSSH show similar physical improvements and in an initial study showed reduction in body fat.

The SSSH program continues to evolve in order to provide a quality program for the growing number of seniors.

Evidence-based program references

The following references support the effectiveness of the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy program.