Research shows that regular exercise provides many benefits to mature women. Yet only 7% of middle-aged and older women exercise daily.

Regular weight-bearing exercise helps older women increase their strength, muscle mass and bone density, and decreases the risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, depression and obesity. Exercise has also been shown to improve self-confidence, sleep and vitality.

Preventing the onset of osteoporosis—porous bones that break easily and heal slowly—is especially important for middle-aged and older women. One out of every three women over the age of 40 suffers from this condition. The good news is that exercise can contribute to the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. For many Wisconsin communities, the challenge lies in finding ways to provide education and opportunities for older women to get the essential exercise they need.

Research About the Benefits of Strength Training

Research About the Social Component

A special issue on the role of social networks in adult health & aging:

Santini ZI, Fiori KL, Feeney J, Tyrovolas S, Haro JM, Koyanagi A. Social relationships, loneliness, and mental health among older men and women in Ireland: A prospective community-based study. Journal of affective disorders. 2016;204:59-69.

Gardner PJ. Natural neighborhood networks — Important social networks in the lives of older adults aging in place. Journal of Aging Studies. 2011; 25(3): 263-271.


Extension Impacts

Since the program began in Wisconsin, Strong WomenTM leaders have conducted sessions reaching more than 15,000 participants. In 2014 alone, 107 leaders taught 245 sessions in every corner of the state. What impact did attending the Strong WomenTM sessions have on the women who participated? More than 120 respondents to a 2014 statewide leader survey reported a variety of impacts for themselves and their participants as a result of Strong WomenTM. Focus group research confirmed many of these findings, including increases in:

  • Strength and improved health and wellness
  • Balance
  • Competence and confidence in ability to complete daily activities
  • Social connectedness

Evaluations from Rock County also revealed that:

  • Of the 481 women who attended Strong WomenTM, 100% learned to use ankle weights and dumbbells to increase their strength.
  •  Based on the Senior Fit Test, 95% of participants had improvements in strength, endurance, balance and flexibility.
  • Twenty-seven of the 481 participants reported a decrease in their need for medication that targeted chronic conditions and pain.
  • The momentum seen in the Wisconsin Strong WomenTM program continues to expand as more trainers are recruited.

Full impact report: Improving Women’s Health and Fitness in Wisconsin: the StrongWomen Program



This article describes findings from a qualitative study of volunteer leaders in the StrongWomen strength training program in Arkansas. The study explored reasons volunteers initially agreed to serve, perceptions of volunteer role, and motivations for continuing to lead strength training groups long-term. Findings suggest a combination of factors supporting volunteer engagement: personal benefit of program, desire to continue program combined with a personal invitation to volunteer extended by the agent, desire to support a co-leader, and exercise and social support needs met through volunteer service. Motivations of Extension health program volunteers are important to address to maximize program impact.

Washburn, Motivations of Volunteer Leaders in an Extension Exercise Program