Boosting women’s strength in 6 weeks

Wednesday, March 7 2012

Can strength training twice a week improve people’s health and daily abilities?

Yes, believes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It set a goal for 30 percent of American adults in the U.S. to weight train twice a week to retain muscle mass and reduce fall-related injuries compared to adults who do not work with weights twice a week.

A 2004 National Health Interview Survey—the most recent—finds only 22 percent of men and 18 percent of women complied in 2004. To see whether even a 6-week, 12-class course could make a difference, University of Idaho Extension family and consumer sciences educators delivered the Strong Women Stay Young program—developed at Tufts University—in 11 Idaho counties with 244 women aged 32 to 89. Most were strength-training novices. Twice each week the women devoted 45 minutes to exercising with weights and 15 minutes to discussing nutrition. They came mainly because of health problems—obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, back pain, and depression.

Results: Surveys show most of the participants became more active, even branching off into golf, kayaking, hiking, and walking more. Their arm and leg strengths increased by 46 percent to 86 percent.

Most participants reported they ate healthier—reduced portions, drank more water, and started eating breakfast. “I can lift my 30-pound granddaughter now and I can move bales of hay,” said one. “My doctor is pleased with the results, too,” said another.

These and other health-related workshops are ongoing through nearly all UI Extension county offices.

More information is available from Martha Raidl at