Water aerobics keeps seniors in the swim CARROLL COUNTY SENIOR CITIZENS

January 20, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

Senior citizens are plunging into water aerobics at Western Maryland College's pool.

With gentle stretches and soft steps, two men and 14 women, aged 60 and older, dance aquatic routines to their favorite melodies for an hour each week.

"I listen to songs all the time," said instructor Susan Mowbray. "I try to find songs I know they would like."

The 45-year-old teacher has the "perfect ear" for senior selections, said Gladys Stewart, 71. The music is "fantastic and right down our alley."

The soundtrack from "Chariots of Fire" plays first as the class follows Ms. Mowbray's directions and warms up for the session.

"Water aerobics increase muscle tone and provide good cardiovascular exercise without placing undue stress on the heart and lungs," said Ms. Mowbray.

Since the perfect water level is at the breast, no one gets a wet head or worries about going outside in the chilly winter air after class.

The water temperature is "just right," Ms. Stewart said. "It is not that icky warm. It's refreshing and we get used to it real fast."

Leg movements help the class warm up and get accustomed to the water temperature, said the instructor.

Ms. Mowbray balances herself with a chair and calls instructions from the side of the pool.

"I have seen this before but never participated," said Margaret Murray, 70. "This is great. I would like to do it three times a week."

"It's fun, not work," said Margaret Tracey, 64. "It's invigorating and really gets you going."

The "Chariots" theme is the most modern song in a repertoire which includes "In the Mood" and "Thanks for the Memories." Many participants sing along softly as they bend and stretch.

The water's buoyancy reduces stress and strain on the joints, said Ms. Mowbray. Participants will not experience next-day muscle soreness.

"I have to work a lot harder on land than you all do in the water," she told the seniors. "And it's really hard for me to be as graceful as you all are."

Gravity works against anyone exercising out of the water, she said.

"Work your muscles from every angle," she said. "Don't worry, the water will hold you up. You won't fall."

A lifeguard remains on duty during the senior swim. Ms. Mowbray also is certified in CPR, first aid and emergency water rescue.

When the beat picks up with "Mack the Knife," everybody bobs up and down in the water, as if they're jumping with imaginary ropes.

"Get those knees up high!" shouted the instructor.

The water dancers do shoulder lifts and head rolls while "Pennies from Heaven" plays and the instructor calls for a little more effort from her class.

"Work those shoulders," she said. "Clap your hands together and swing your arms like you are hitting a baseball."

The seniors form a circle and walk briskly back and forth to "In the Mood." Ms. Mowbray jogs around the pool urging the class to "speed it up," but adds with a laugh, "be sure to keep breathing."

"All that movement creates a whirlpool effect and makes exercising harder, but that is a good effect," she said.

After two minutes of jobbing in place and doing the "senior twist," the class is ready to cool down. They walk and move their arms in swimming motions to "New York, New York."

"Take deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale," said Ms. Mowbray.

The eight-week session, which began Jan. 6, still has room for a few more students. The cost is $16. Ms. Mowbray said catching up would not be difficult.

After 45 minutes of exercise, the class can "free swim" for the rest of the hour. Ms. Mowbray, who also teaches water aerobics at Fairhaven in Sykesville, said she may make the routines a little harder and longer each week.

"The age ranges are amazing, and I forget sometimes these people are older," she said. "They are in better shape than a lot of younger people."

Dorothy and Robert Leese of Westminster said they come for the therapeutic benefits of the class. Mr. Leese has undergone heart and back surgery and finds the water exercise helpful.

"This is a great workout," he said.

Bertha Sosnowsky, 74, said she plans to work on her husband and get him into swimming, too.

"We took Susan's class at Carroll Lutheran Village and loved it," said Mrs. Sosnowsky. "I decided to try swimming exercise, too."

The class leaves the pool with a little reluctance.

"I hate to go outside," said Margaret Martin, carrying her swimming gear. "The instructor is so enthusiastic I feel like I could go on longer and longer."

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