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Water aerobics: healthy fun for senior citizens

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The pool size is way off in this picture, and my story is not about swimming cats. I just painted this so as not to compromise the privacy of my friends who take part in the wonderful hobby/sport of water aerobics. (I also didn’t want to get my camera near the pool.)

None of us who take part in senior water aerobics in this area are bathing beauties or beach hunks. Some are in it just for exercise and fun, but many of us have started the activity on medical advice. I myself, being post-stroke, have a nasty tendency to leg spasms and related pains; others have more severe problems, including Parkinson’s. The medical truth is that older muscles are easier to exercise in water. People with weight problems can also benefit.

Senior water aerobics classes are offered by YMCAs and by many municipal park systems. Cost per session is minimal; in some places, sessions are free. Each session is led by a trained employee. I have been amazed at the expertise these employees have both in body mechanics and human relationships. Included in the exercises are hand and wrist exercises I first learned in rehab nearly 20 years ago. There are also cardio exercises, and plenty for those pesky legs.

I have never been a swimmer and felt a little shy about going into these sessions. To my amazement, I have watched various aerobics trainers work to find some way each person can work each exercise. They are invariably patient and understanding of the fact that I must leave 35% of my hearing capacity in the dressing room. (NEVER get hearing aids around water.) Aerobics classes often use shallow pools (3 feet 6 inches to 5 feet water depth), or at least the shallow end of regular pools. I can wear my glasses throughout the class, and many women also wear jewelry, especially earrings.

Classes are mixed races and mixed sexes; often a lot of socializing is done before class and even at intervals during class. Some attendees use shorts and a tee shirt instead of regular bathing suits. No one appears self-conscious over physical appearance or any disability. In the ladies’ dressing room, everyone peels out of her suit without any apparent self-consciousness. After all, we’re all in the same boat – older citizens who need exercise and community.

In the camaraderie of class, I soon found myself doing things that would feel stupid otherwise – like pretending to jump rope with the doodles (or noodles) I have pictured. We jog in place with the doodles, play jumping jacks, and swing the things like bats. There are also exercises with water weights and kick boards. We get going, and the years sort of melt away. By jingo, we’re having FUN!

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