Elderly exercise to oldies Workout sways to Big Band strains

April 14, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

The Carroll Racquet and Fitness Center in Finksburg echoed to the strains of "In the Mood" and "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" as Fit After Fifty, a new fitness class for seniors, got hopping yesterday.

"I haven't done exercises like this since high school," said Betty Christhilf, 79, of Glyndon, while she took a breather on the sidelines with her husband, Donald, 84.

As if apologizing, she said, "It's a little more strenuous than I thought it would be."

The class, which began yesterday, meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4 p.m. for aerobics, taught to Big Band music.

In early May, participants will also be encouraged to use stair-steppers, treadmills and weight-training equipment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

"It's never too late to start," said Timothy Stach, a certified personal trainer who will be working with the class.

No experience is necessary to join, he said.

Several class members have physical limitations. One woman at yesterday's class had a heart problem. Another had limited mobility in one shoulder. A man who attended had once had knee surgery.

"We moderate everything for them," Mr. Stach said.

For example, he said, when the seniors use the weight-training equipment they will be encouraged to use light weights.

Instead of trying to become weight-lifting champions, they will strive to develop more flexibility and ease of movement.

Mr. Stach said the exercises would be low-impact, which means they are not very strenuous.

They are designed to raise heart rates to only about 65 to 70 percent of their maximum level.

Pam Wagner, who leads the aerobics class, said the low-impact workout is also gentle on the joints.

Pregnant women and women who have just had babies will also find the class worthwhile, she said.

Ms. Wagner should know. She is six months pregnant herself, and she flew through the workout with ease.

Ms. Wagner is certified to teach aerobics, and she has had certification to work with people suffering from arthritis.

With extra care and specially designed stretching, she said, some arthritis sufferers can increase their mobility.

She said one arthritic woman she worked with could not, at first, raise her arms above shoulder level.

But after eight weeks of classes, she could raise her arms above her head.

Every 10 or 12 minutes, Ms. Wagner had the exercisers stop and take their pulse rate.

Debbie Speed, a registered nurse, stayed with the class to help participants do the moves properly.

Ms. Speed said seniors should not start such a fitness program without supervision.

She said she does a basic physical assessment on everyone in the class.

If a participant is taking medications or suffering from health problems, she will either speak with the person's doctor or ask for a doctor's release.

When class members felt pooped, they simply went to the side for a brief timeout.

But even the people resting tapped their toes to the sounds of Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme.

The class costs $25 for a month, and people sign up for three months at a time.

The class can help elderly people who are overweight, Ms. Speed said, or others, especially those living alone, who may not be eating balanced diets.

Mrs. Christhilf said she had fun yesterday, but she didn't think her husband would want to come back.

"I enjoy the music and I enjoy doing it," she said. "I just wish I was 20 years younger."

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