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Aquatic exercise is awash with health benefits


NOW THAT summer has ended, community pools have closed and covers stretch across backyard oases where pools once sparkled in the sun.

For most people, the swimming season is over. But for a growing number of people who enjoy the therapeutic and fitness benefits of water, indoor pools are the answer.

Merritt Athletic Club in Eldersburg has two pools that accommodate various fitness needs. The smaller pool is referred to by Kathy Gilbert, regional aquatics director at Merritt, as the warm-water pool, and is kept at 90 degrees. The larger pool is used for scuba diving and aerobics classes, and is reserved for lap swimmers. It is maintained at a workout temperature between 82 and 84 degrees.

The glass atrium that houses the pools has panels that open and let in fresh air. Sunlight provides warmth year round.

Gilbert says the therapeutic effects of warm water are incred- ible. For people who suffer from pain, arthritis, sports injuries or muscle stiffness, warm water is often the best medicine. She has taught Warm Water Stretch classes, moderate aerobics and Arthritis Plus classes for the past 12 years, and has seen the benefits they provide.

Gilbert says that seniors regain a great deal of the mobility and strength they have lost, and are able to exercise painlessly in the weightlessness of the water. Gilbert, who is certified by the Arthritis Foundation, believes that water can help absorb pain from people's bodies and improve their quality of life.

The Olympic-size lap pool at Merritt offers the opportunity for a more vigorous workout. Meg Gross of Eldersburg is a member of the Master Swim Group there, a small group of athletes that prepares for competitive swim meets and for triathlons.

The class meets twice a week, with one class beginning at 6 a.m. Gross says the class focuses on improving a swimmer's stroke, endurance and speed. Several members are training for an Ironman Triathlon, an event that requires athletes to swim two and a half miles in open water, after which they bicycle for 112 miles, and run for 26.2 miles.

The master group trains rigorously, and swims at least one mile during classes.

Personal workouts are satisfying in other ways.

"I enjoy the overall fitness of swimming," says Gross. "I also love going swimming when the sun is shining in, and no one else is in the pool," she added, referring to her lap-swimming workouts outside of class.

For those who don't participate in a class and prefer to swim on their own, suggested swimming workouts are posted on a board in the pool area by Master Swim Group instructor Amy Sussman. Many swimmers prefer to use the pools simply to relax and float.

"Many people just enjoy the feeling of being in the water," Gilbert says. "The weightlessness and natural good feeling of the water can't be duplicated anywhere."

Apple festival

Piney Run Park Nature Center is busy preparing for the apple festival, to be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Volunteers will prepare baked goods that have been enjoyed by festival participants for several years: apple pies, breads, muffins, cupcakes, brownies, candied and caramel apples, and other baked goods, including apple dumplings.

Festival attractions will include iron forging, storytelling, pontoon lake tours, horse-drawn wagon rides and handmade crafts.

Regular park entrance fees - $4 per Carroll County vehicle and $5 per non-Carroll County vehicle - apply. The event will take place rain or shine.

Information: 410-795-6043.

Prayer chain

The 11th annual Carroll County Life Chain Hour of Prayer, an anti-abortion demonstration, is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 6 in front of Church of the Nazarene in Eldersburg. The demonstration, part of a nationwide event, also will be held in Taneytown and Westminster.

Information: 410-751-1712, 410-876-7984, or 410-795-0178.

Debra Taylor Young's neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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