PUBLISHED: 12:04 PM on Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Stepping up to be a strong woman

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

Do you know women (and men) who would like to be healthier, stronger and more active? Are you a health professional or community member interested in leading a strength-training program to members of your organization, worksite, or social group?

If so, then the StrongWomen Group Leader Training Program may be your answer. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Juneau District, is partnering with SEARHC Steps to a Healthier Southeast Alaska and WiseWoman programs, and the University of Alaska Southeast Recreational Center to bring the StrongWomen group leader training to Juneau.

For those unfamiliar with the StrongWomen Program, it is an evidenced-based strength-training program developed by Dr. Miriam Nelson and her staff at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. The primary objective of the Program is to help communities nationwide to implement safe and effective strength training programs for midlife and older women (and men).

Scientific research has demonstrated that strength-training will:

• Increase strength, muscle mass, and bone density.

• Reduce the risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, and depression.

• Contribute to improved self-confidence, sleep and vitality.

StrongWomen Programs are available in approximately 35 States. In Alaska, Programs can be found in Anchorage, Soldotna, Fairbanks, Palmer, and Bethel, and a future program planned for Nome. In the Southeast, SEARHC offers classes in Sitka, Juneau, Kake, Angoon, Haines, and Klawock.

The StrongWomen Program is ideal for small sites in Alaska because a minimum of equipment is required.

The exercises are performed using dumbbells and adjustable ankle weights. Only a chair and a small area for movement are needed for each participant. Almost anyone of any age can begin the program and see results.

Appropriate sites to initiate a StrongWomen Program include but are not limited to:

• Senior Centers

• Hospital Outpatient Centers

• Cooperative Extension Services

• Community Health Centers

• Assisted Living Facilities

• Independent Retirement Communities

• Community Fitness Centers

• Places of Worship

At the core of the StrongWomen model is a toolkit that comprises the primary functional materials to be used by group leaders to start programs within their community. The Toolkit works in a stepwise fashion covering topics ranging from program promotion, when to gain medical clearance, to a comprehensive exercise prescription and easy-to-use nutrition information for older adults.

It is preferable that potential leaders for the StrongWomen Program have experience in providing exercise instruction and/or have been strength training on their own for at least 6-8 weeks prior to being trained.

However, this experience is not a requirement and should not stop you from attending the group leader training and learning how to organize and lead this simple, but effective program.

At the workshop, program leaders will be trained on the exercise program itself, as well as, how to effectively instruct and assist participants in learning the exercises.

The StrongWomen Program Group Leader Training will be held from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. May 8 at the UAS Recreation Center, Room 116. Linda Tannehill, UAF CES Kenai Peninsula District Home Economist, will be the course instructor. The participation fee of $50 provides:

• The StrongWomen Toolkit

• Healthy snacks for morning and afternoon breaks

• Lunch

• Exercise demonstrations, practice, and breakout sessions for attendees to learn the exercises as well as to learn how to teach them to participants

• Leadership module and training

• Support in getting your community program started and keeping it going

Registration deadline is 5 p.m. Monday, April 24. The $50 fee is due at the time of registering so that Toolkits can be ordered. To register for the StrongWomen workshop, or for more information, contact Dr. Sonja Koukel, UAF CES, 465-8756.