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Monday, November 9, 2009

Water Exercise for Seniors Who are "Extra-Size" - New Approaches for Arthritis and Joint Replacements

Did you ever try slow motion jumping jacks, knee bends, or slow jogging in place on your toes in water up to your shoulders? Our local pool has some new approaches to seniors' aquatic exercise and we locals are getting relief from arthritis and losing weight at the same time. There are two swimming pools, with different temperatures. First there is one pool that is 82 degrees, 25 meters long (about 75 feet) and part of the day it's divided into lanes for swimming laps or water walking.

The other pool is 86 degrees, which feels like a nice warm bathwater temperature to me. The "Warm Water Pool" or WWP, is smaller, about 25 feet by 35 feet. Arthritis exercise classes are held there, and the classes are well attended.

There might be about 20 people at a time watching a leader who stands on the concrete outside the pool with a microphone. Stretching, bending, and pushing against the resistance of the water, pressing styrofoam barbells beneath the water, and water walking are some of the exercises.

Some of the seniors and overweight friends whom I've suggested the aquatic exercise to have shyly said they are afraid to appear in a swim suit in public, perhaps afraid that most everyone else will be in the teen years, be a young adult or be slender and fit. But the classes have plenty of "vintage" swimmers in their 60's, 70's, 80's and even 90's and many are sharing the fight against the battle of the bulge. If you're a senior and/or overweight you'll have plenty of company - no need to miss out on swimming because of it.

We're in a new era and no longer do the senior years mean a sedentary life at home. Both pools have hoyer type lifts to assist those who are not ambulatory into the pools. Those who are unable to walk on land often find that with the buoyance of the water they have more mobility. A caregiver or friend can assist.

Many, perhaps even most, of the seniors I've spoken to have had a knee or hip replaced, or say they will need to have this done someday. Many say they are using the water exercise to help the new knee or hip heal. Others say they want to build strength in tendons, ligaments and muscles in preparation for a joint replacement or to help their arthritis.

Aquatherapy gives physical therapy with buoyancy taking the weight and impact off of aging joints and muscles, increases range of motion, burns calories, and builds strength.

One lady who was swimming laps said it was her "aqua-meditation" time, for mental problem solving, contemplation and stress reduction.

After exercising in the water it's also nice to finish with 10 minutes in the dry heat of the sauna room.

When I leave I feel like a new person.

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