'Fitness' Has Different Meanings For The Senior Set

August 14, 1991|By June Kurtz | June Kurtz,Contributing writer

Edward M. Overton said he exercises so he won't jiggle when he walks.

Being fit helps the 57-year-old Eldersburg resident face each day with a smile.

"It's harder and harder and harder as the years go by to get up in the morning," Overton said. "You must be doing something, or you just literally turn rusty."

Overton participated in several cycling events at the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic III and the Maryland State Games, both held in July. He exercises regularly, alternatingbetween bicycling and walking, he said.

Any type of regular activity is good for seniors, said Carrie McFadden, a Jazzercise and Aqua Motion instructor.

"It's going to help slow down the aging processa little bit," she said. "Just getting outside is good for them."

McFadden constantly urges seniors to stay active, she said.

"If you don't use it, you're gonna lose it. Use it," she tells them. "Do something. Put some movement in your life. Nothing makes you feel better than working out a little bit."

"There's got to be some movement," Overton agreed. "The absence of it is a bad downhill slide, I'm afraid."

Water aerobics is especially good for muscle toning and flexibility in seniors, McFadden said.

"It's just a really perfect, low-impact program," she said. "It works everything without putting any stress on any of the joints. They just use the resistance of the water vs. pounding to get a good workout."

Exercise restores elasticity and strengthens the muscles, enriches the blood and improves circulation, enhances agility and mobility, and builds endurance, according to an information booklet by The Travelers Cos., the American Association of Retired Persons, and the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

In addition, it may improve the capacity of the heart, circulatory system and lungs to process oxygen, which in turn, reduces fatigue, the booklet said.

But seniors must take some precautions, McFadden said.

Always check with a doctor to make surethe exercise program planned is suitable for the individual, she said. Start slowly, and gradually work up to the desired level. And never exercise outside between about 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on a sweltering day, she said.

"It's not safe," McFadden said. "It's not smart."

Before beginning the exercise program each day, seniors should remember to warm up, said Kay I. Nakielny, the clinical manager at CarrollCounty General Hospital's Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit.

"It's likecrawling out of bed," Nakielny said. "You just need to stretch and warm up those muscles."

And, she said, remember to cool down afterward.

Self-monitoring is one of the most important things to remember when exercising, McFadden said. If something hurts or if a senior has chest pain, difficulty breathing or speaking, she said, stop and,if necessary, consult a doctor.

Use your common sense, Nakielny said.

"You should always be able to converse with somebody while you're exercising," she said.

Always monitor your heart rate to be certain it is at the target level, Nakielny said. A doctor can help you determine what the rate should be, she said.

Overton checks his pulse regularly while he exercises to make sure he is not pushing himself too hard. When he is in doubt, he said, he backs off.

"I relyon mental body sense," he said.

Other programs seniors can followare exercise videotapes, stationary bicycles or walking, McFadden said. But sometimes it's harder to stay regimented when exercising alone, she said.

Some seniors prefer a scheduled class because they exercise more for the social aspect than the physical benefits.

Nancy N. Heiberg, a 63-year-old New Windsor resident, said she joined McFadden's Aqua Motion class to rehabilitate her sprained ankle.

A doubles tennis player, Heiberg was unable to play with the injury and missed spending time with her friends on the court. But, she said, sheenjoys the water aerobics class.

"It's great," Heiberg said. "I would continue doing it after I get back to playing tennis."

Seniors who enjoy walking can make it a social activity by joining a walking club.

Cranberry Mall, in association with the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross, offers all county residents the opportunity to walk in a climate-controlled environment in its free Mall Walkers Club.

The Westminster mall keeps its doors unlocked from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, giving residents a chance to exercise in the company of others.

Nearly 1,000 people are signed up for the "Mall Walking" program, which incorporates a planned walking route, said Rosemary Collins, the assistant mall manager.

Participants must provide the mall with a contact person in the event of an emergency, Collins said.

About a half-dozen South CarrollSenior Center members take part in a walking program around Carrolltowne Mall in Eldersburg, said Bea P. Waltz, 70, of Sykesville. Nearly25 people walk around the mall each morning, she said.

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