Water Exercise for Seniors
A Dive into Good Health continued...
"It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know,"
says Shannon Whetstone Mescher, a certified health educator and vice president
of programs and services for the Arthritis Foundation (AF), who reviewed the
Takeshima's research found that older women who participated in
regular water exercise over 12 weeks experienced more strength, flexibility,
and agility, and better total cholesterol levels.
Michael E. Rogers, PhD, Takeshima's co-author and director of
the Center for Physical Activity and Aging at Wichita State University in
Kansas, says the difference between their research and others lies in the focus
of the investigation.
Previous studies, he says, concentrated on the cardiovascular
benefits and safety of swimming or aqua aerobics. "Our study combined aqua
aerobics -- walking and dancing in the water -- with actual strength training
in the water. The participants lifted weights while they were in the
On average, he says aqua exercise participants increased their
strength by 27% in the quadriceps, 40% in the hamstrings, and about 10% in the
upper body region.
Rogers attributes the increase in strength to the resistance
that can be more easily experienced in water than on land.
Aquatic Classes for the Masses
If anyone has put muscle behind water fitness programs, it's
the Arthritis Foundation. The organization has been hosting aquatic classes for
all ages at local gyms and hospitals in the last 25 years.
"It's our most popular program," says Whetstone
Mescher, who observes that many people enjoy being able to exercise and
socialize with others in the pool.
For those with bone, muscle, or joint troubles, the warmth,
buoyancy, and resistance of the water supposedly challenges the body while
easing strain on problematic areas. "Over a period of time," she says,
"people see things like a decrease in pain, improved daily function, and
improved perceived quality of life."
Even people who don't have access to a local pool can enjoy
these benefits. The Arthritis Foundation offers a video on how to safely and
effectively exercise in a spa or a hot tub. For more information about the
video and to find the nearest AF aquatic class near you, call 1-800-283-7800 or
log on to www.arthritis.org.
A Life-Changing Habit
Swimming three to four times a week has helped Patricia feel
healthier and more coordinated. In the water, she doesn't feel any pain, even
though she suffered a major back injury from an accident a few years before.
Now almost 60 years old, she has more energy than ever, and is "having a
blast" teaching high-schoolers.
Patricia plans to continue her water workouts. In fact, she's
signed up for two more AARP relays with her sisters this year. The events have
also given them the chance to be alone for the first time in 30 years. Last
year, they were so excited about being together, they had facials and makeup
done, and got uniforms for the triathlon.
The story is remarkable, but it is only one of many that show
the life-changing effect of exercise.
"It's important to choose activities that you enjoy,"
advises Margaret Hawkins, Campaign Manager of Health for the AARP. "Search
for that activity and make it a habit."
"It is never too late to introduce physical activity in
life," says Chodzko-Zajko. And the AARP knows that. The oldest swimmer at
one of their TriUmph Classics last year was 83.