Mary Ann Wilson makes a comfortable living sitting down on the job.
But, it’s not your typical office job answering telephones or working at a computer. After five years as an aerobics instructor, the registered nurse created a program helping elderly adults balance out their bodies with gentle muscle and joint workouts - all done while sitting in a chair. Wilson choreographed exercise routines set to music, designed especially for seniors.
Soon, her business Sit and Be Fit was born, followed by a television program of the same name.
The show airs internationally on about 100 public broadcasting stations. In Spokane, it runs Monday-Friday on KSPS Channel 7, at 11 a.m. In addition, Wilson teaches classes at various assisted living centers and retirement centers through the Spokane Falls Community College Seniors Program.
Wilson’s program aims to help seniors maintain their independence. Exercising keeps them fit and improves their quality of life, she said. Senior students range in age from 55-94, and classes hold about 15 people. The 8-11 week, 22-hour course costs $10.
The show has won several awards in the past year. Two Sit and Be Fit home videos earned gold awards in the 1997 National Health Information competition; another video reaped the merit award from National Mature Media. Her “Kids Workout Video” received 1996 Parents’ Choice honors from the Parents’ Choice Foundation.
Sit and Be Fit was chosen 1997 Small Business of the Year by the American Society on Aging. And Consumer Digest awarded Sit and Be Fit videotapes a “Best Buy” Recognition of Excellence. Finally, Wilson was selected as 1997 Fitness Instructor of the Year by the Fitness Educators of Older Adults Association.
The course has become so popular that a seminar on elder chair exercise will be held this weekend allowing others the knowledge to teach it. With the help of Spokane physical therapist Lori McCormick, the three-day seminar is set for 7-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-noon Sunday at Spokane Falls Community College. The course costs $175, which includes exercise materials, chair exercise manual, coffee breaks and Saturday lunch. Another seminar will be held March 13-15, 1998.
The seminar is for anyone - people with no exercise background, physical therapists, nurses, health educators, and assisted living workers. An overview of anatomy/physiology will be given in layman’s terms, along with an explanation of what happens to bodies as they age, and hints on making up routines.
When seniors exercise, “it contributes to their ‘can-do’ attitude. If they can do a little bit, it encourages them to do more,” McCormick said.
Jeanette DeGeus has taken the class for five years. It has helped her maintain her balance, eased the arthritis in her hands, and made her feel healthier overall, she said. “I can’t say enough about the program. I love it.”
To sign up for a seminar or individual classes, call 533-3770. For information on Sit and Be Fit, call 448-9438.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: Created in support of the Spokane County Health Improvement Partnership (HIP), Discoveries highlights people working to improve community health and well-being. If you have a discovery that deserves recognition, call 742-3660. Or visit HIP’s website at www.hipspokane.org.