News & Announcements
Jan. 18, 2024
Story by Brian Consiglio
For nearly 20 years, Stephen Ball has been a man on a mission: helping older Missourians stay healthy and get stronger through physical activity.
In 2005, the professor in the University of Missouri College of Health Sciences and Extension helped create a program called Stay Strong Stay Healthy (SSSH). Since then, the eight-week strength training program has assisted more than 20,000 older adults across five states. Participants aged 60 and up are taught safe ways to complete exercises — including squats, bicep curls and lunges — in a comfortable, friendly environment.
“One thing I always preach when it comes to physical activity is: some is better than none, more is better than some and too much is difficult to get,” Ball said. “As the United States population is aging, I want to make a difference by helping older adults stay independent as they age and send the message that you don’t need an expensive gym membership with a personal trainer to stay active. We created a community-based program so older adults can exercise with others who look like them in a more comfortable, social environment.”
The MU Extension program has proven results. Participants consistently report an increase in physical energy and self-confidence, and multiple peer-reviewed studies and an extensive body of published literature show the program improves muscle strength, balance, flexibility and sleep. It’s also been proven to reduce participants’ risk of falling, a big concern for aging adults.
“Another benefit we often hear about is the social enjoyment participants have spending time with other older adults,” Ball said. “While it is certainly not expected, participants sometimes take the instructors out for lunch or ice cream after class as a sign of gratitude, appreciation and friendship.”