PUBLISHED: 5:05 PM on Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Strength training program for optimal health

Why do people exercise? There's no one answer to that question.

People exercise for a variety of reasons: to lose weight, build endurance, reduce stress, or for the pure enjoyment of the physical activity.

Health professionals remind us that being physically active is one of the cornerstones to maintaining good health. Research shows that regular physical activity can help prevent or better manage a number of diseases like diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

Additionally, fitness can help you maintain a healthy weight; strengthen your bones, muscles, heart, and lungs; boost your immune system; help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression; and help you sleep better.

When assessing or planning an exercise routine, it's important to make sure you're covering the bases, or the four essential building blocks of fitness. They are endurance, flexibility, strength, and balance.

Endurance exercises are those that target cardiovascular fitness.

They are referred to as aerobic (oxygen) exercises that include dancing, cycling, jogging, swimming, and walking.

Flexibility can be achieved through yoga, martial arts, and stretching exercises.

Strength-building involves resistance training, such as weightlifting, or martial arts.

Yoga, ballet, and Tai Chi are good choices for improving balance.

At this point, you may be wondering how to incorporate four exercise programs into your already over-scheduled life.

One answer may be StrongWomen, a program targeting three of the four essential building blocks of fitness. This program is proven to increase strength and muscle mass as well as improve balance and flexibility.

The StrongWomen Program, developed by Dr. Miriam Nelson at Tufts University, is based upon years of research on how strength training not only improves bone density but reduces falls, improves arthritis symptoms, and increases flexibility and strength.

The program is appropriate for both sedentary and very active women.

Additionally, the program can serve as an introduction to resistance training for women and men of any age.

The Juneau District Cooperative Extension Service is offering an 8-week StrongWomen (and men) strength training program. It will be held at Fitness Essentials, 2348 Glacier Ave. The sessions are March 5 - April 26. Meeting days are Mondays and Thursdays, 8-9 am. The cost for the 8-week course is $48. Payment is due at the time of registration to reserve space. Interested individuals may register at the Extension office, 3032 Vintage Blvd. Ste. 104. Call 465-8749 for more information. Scholarships are available.

Dr. Koukel is the Juneau District Agent for the Home Economics Programs of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.