Splashing your way to good health

Savannah Center Sports Pool / Photo: Fred Lopez

Exercising in the water not only makes workouts more enjoyable, it’s also easier on joints and gives you the added benefit of being outdoors

Water exercises are a great way for older adults to get the aerobic movement they need along with less impact on the joints. When you exercise in water, you feel about 90 percent lighter, according to the American Council on Exercise. Whether you’re water walking, doing aerobics, or playing volleyball, your body doesn’t feel the same impact it would on land or on a floor.

This is good news for those with arthritis, back problems, foot or leg injuries, and knee conditions. It’s also a benefit for those who are obese. And it’s just plain fun to be in the water.

The Villages offers an extraordinary number of classes in its many recreational pools. The full weekly schedule for each pool is listed in The Villages Recreation and Parks Guide. Activities in pools include combo swim, women’s water exercise, men’s water exercise, as well as coed classes, so you can go wherever you feel comfortable.

Water volleyball is very popular and offers players a chance to move around a lot, enjoy the challenge of competition, and help their bodies at the same time. There are different levels of play so you don’t have to fear you may be “out of your league” if you wish to join in.

Many people enjoy lap swimming, which is an individual exercise done at your own pace. Times are available for these swimmers, too, along with open exercise, where you exercise on your own.

The benefits of water exercise are especially relevant for older adults, who may have balance issues or loss of muscle strength. The resistance of the body in the water increases muscle strength—much greater than air. That means your body is getting a rigid workout that increases strength, flexibility, and agility.

Working out in water helps you build endurance as the water offers natural resistance because your body strains through the water rather than against it.

Flexibility is important as you age. Joints tend to get stiff, slowing your gait and causing pain if you sit or stand too long in one position.

Because movement in the water takes your body in various directions, flexibility comes more easily.

Eisenhower Sports Pool / Photo: Fred Lopez

Barbara Qualls and her husband, Mills, lead a coed water aerobics class, High Nooners, that meets at noon Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at Savannah Center sports pool in The Villages.

“There are some 40 exercises that we do, and they involve everything from your eyes down to your toes,” Barbara says. “The exercises are designed mostly for stretching, flexibility, and muscle toning.”

She says the exercises are designed for everyone to be able to do water aerobics at their own pace. They can do the movements extra strenuously if they wish, or in slower motions.

“People always tell us how much they benefit from the exercises,” she says. “After every class we hear, ‘Thank you so much. This is just exactly what I needed.’”

Those with arthritis are often cautioned to keep moving, but if movement causes great pain, they’re tempted to resist doing it. The Arthritis Foundation of Florida estimates almost 5 million people in the state have some form of arthritis, and says exercise is a key component to good health. Movement in the water takes the pressure off those painful joints, making it easier to move with less stress.

Water doesn’t just make your body healthier, however, it also works on your stress level and anxiety. Water is always soothing, and working out in water can be one of the best stress relievers. A 2007 study in Poland found depression was significantly decreased and anxiety lowered for women who did regular aquatic exercise.

Best of all—water exercise burns calories. Your body gets a full workout, whether you’re swimming or doing aerobics, so you burn 400 to 500 calories an hour. Many people don’t enjoy the sweat that comes from working out in a gym, so water exercise alleviates that problem, too. Having the cool water around you means you work out just as hard but you don’t get too hot.

It’s great to live in Florida, where you can enjoy water activities year-round. Taking time out of your busy schedule to do exercises in water can help you feel better, look better, and have more energy to do all the activities you love to do in The Villages.