StrongWomen participants and volunteers gain a resource in new website

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CORVALLIS, Ore. – It was nearly a year ago that the COVID-19 pandemic forced StrongWomen – a popular Oregon State University Extension Service strength training program for middle-aged and older adults – to suspend its in-person classes to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The decision was understandable but left StrongWomen faculty and local volunteer leaders wondering how they could meet the needs of these populations, said Lauren Kraemer, statewide StrongWomen coordinator and an assistant professor of practice in the OSU College of Health.

StrongWomen, which is offered through the Extension Family and Community Health program, shifted to Zoom meetings for classes and made weights available for members to use at home.

Now, there’s another resource to help keep those arms and legs lifting and curling.

A new StrongWomen website recently debuted, providing current and potential participants everything they need to know about the program, including exercise videos that allow them to follow along at home.

“Our volunteer leaders are using some of the video clips as supplements to their Zoom classes, including the warmup and floor exercises that are harder to ‘model’ on a Zoom screen,” Kraemer said. “Our leaders have been so nimble and so helpful. They continually remind me how important the social aspect of this program is, even if it’s through a camera.”

Kraemer notes that there’s a set of videos that focus on floor work.

“When we met in person, many of our older adults were really nervous about getting on the floor,” she said. “Maybe in the comfort of their own home they might try it.”

The videos will allow Kraemer and other volunteer leaders to conduct distance training for new volunteer leaders. StrongWomen supports 21 groups across nine counties in Oregon and southern Washington. Prior to the pandemic, 60 leaders had been trained to lead classes, exposing 455 participants to evidence-based physical activity opportunities.

StrongWomen was developed at Tufts University, based upon research on how strength training improves the health of older adults. Research shows strength training improves bone density, arthritis symptoms, flexibility, strength and reduces falls.

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