Chas Reilly Times correspondent
Getting in the water is a nice way to cool off from the heat, but there are many other reasons seniors should consider aquatic activities.
It’s necessary for seniors to stay as active as they can, and water aerobics and other aquatic exercises are a great way to stay fit.
Pamela G. Huenink, a certified exercise physiologist at Community Hospital Fitness Pointe in Munster, said seniors can achieve a variety of benefits by participating in water activities.
Aquatic exercise classes at Fitness Pointe take place in the facility’s lap pool, which stays at 82 degrees, as well as its 92-degree therapy pool.
Stretches done in the therapy pool help participants enhance flexibility. Huenink said muscle strength and flexibility are key for maintaining independence.
“The Fitness Pointe aqua classes are designed to help our aging population maintain their independence as long as possible, and we love to have new people join our classes and see their own improvement with consistent class attendance,” Huenink said.
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The warmer water pool also offers functional and strength water programs.
“These classes work on toning the body as well as improving balance and coordination all through movements that use the buoyancy and viscosity of the water to challenge the body’s skeletal muscles,” Huenink said. “The use of hand buoys, noodles and small Pilates balls give participants consistent challenges to help them with stability when out of the pool.”
In the 82-degree lap pool, water aerobics participants can increase their heart rate by performing larger body movements.
“Movements such as walking or marching in place, small hopping movements, modified jumping jacks and slow jogging are common,” Huenink said. “It is also common to hold hand buoys when completing these movements to challenge the upper body. They come in different sizes so a class participant can choose how much they want to be challenged, if they prefer to hold the buoys.”
Aquatic exercise classes have many other benefits for seniors.
“There is little to no impact on the joints in the body,” Huenink said of water programs.
Being in the water can help take pressure off sore joints, muscles and the spine while participating in the exercises.
“Because of the combination of buoyancy and viscosity, the core muscles are challenged as people move through the water, which helps improve balance out of the water,” Huenink said.
When it comes to determining how often to participate in water classes or other fitness programs, Huenink recommends seniors stay as active as they can.
“Physical activity is paramount to ensuring that as we age, we keep our muscles flexible and our joints’ range of motion as large as possible,” Huenink said. “Adding exercise, specifically water classes, to a weekly regimen of movement will help a senior maintain or even improve these things. The best place to start for a senior is two to three times a week consistently moving at a comfortable pace for 10 to 15 minutes, working up to 30 minutes a day.
“If someone can move 30 minutes each day five to six days a week, they will be well on their way to keeping a healthy lifestyle that will encourage longevity of life.”
Those interested in trying out an aquatic fitness class have a variety of locations to choose from. Fitness Pointe, Franciscan Health Fitness Centers in Chesterton and local YMCA locations are among them.