Swimming and water aerobics are among the most popular fitness activities for seniors, whether they’re in a senior living community or not.
The advantages for those living in a retirement community include easy access to a pool — oftentimes an indoor pool — and instructors who are trained specifically to work with older adults. There are other benefits specific to residents of senior living communities, which we’ll get to a bit later in this post.
First, let’s cover some of the more universal benefits of these forms of exercise.
For those who are relatively mobile, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” That’s true even for people who aren’t as flexible or steady as they once were. The resistance of the water helps to support the body while slowing movement.
This means you’re actually working harder than you would if you were doing the same movements on land (even if you’re just walking), but you’re less prone to injury. Swimming or working out in the pool is also easier on the joints than many other forms of exercise because there’s less impact. This is particularly advantageous for people with arthritis and other health conditions that affect the joints.
If you’re concerned about losing your balance, here again, you’re less likely to sustain an injury than you would be if you slipped and fell while walking or working out on land because the water supports you until you can get your feet back on the bottom of the pool.
If you’re not familiar with this organization but are interested in swimming for health and enjoyment, you may want to check it out. It’s a national group for members ranging in age from 18 to 104. The swim practices and competitions just might be the motivation you’re looking for to make regular water exercise part of your routine.
Incidentally, don’t let the name fool you — you don’t have to be an expert or advanced swimmer. You don’t even need to know how to swim! “Masters” in this case simply refers to adults who are at least 18. The competitions are segmented by age brackets; the oldest is for those ages 100 to 104.
Swimming exercises, such as water aerobics, and swimming itself could well be among the best forms of physical activity for fitness.
A fitness routine that includes swimming and pool exercises can help you:
Swimming or doing water aerobics on a regular basis can also improve your health if you have heart disease or diabetes, and lower your risk for these and other chronic diseases if you don’t already have them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, led by exercise scientist Dr. Stephen Blair of the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina, included more than 40,000 men ages 20 to 90. The study evaluated the fitness levels and mortality rates of those who swam regularly in comparison with the men who engaged in other types of exercise (walking and running) or were sedentary. They were followed for more than a decade, on average.
Although there were some potential limitations to the study, mostly regarding the population evaluated, the results suggested that the men who swam had better cardiorespiratory fitness relative to the control groups (including better lung function and lower total cholesterol), and their mortality rates were about 50% lower than the other men.
Dr. Blair noted that the group of swimmers was quite a bit smaller than the other two groups, which may have skewed the outcomes to some extent. He also said there was no reason to think that women would not benefit similarly.
Most of the typical exercises you would do in a “regular” aerobics class can be modified and done in a pool. Even certain yoga movements can be adapted for the pool. And as we noted earlier, simply walking (or jogging) in the pool will yield more benefits than walking or jogging on dry land.
While the water provides resistance and helps you build strength, it also offers buoyancy, which can make certain movements easier than outside the pool.
To get started, try these common pool exercises. You can easily find specific instructions and videos for them online.
As with any new exercise routine, it’s best to talk with your doctor before you begin. Ask about any limitations you might have or movements you should avoid because of existing health conditions. Swimming and pool exercises are generally among the safest exercises for most people.
If you don’t have a pool, look into getting a membership at a local fitness, community or senior center. While you’re at it, you can also check the schedule to see if/what kind of water aerobics classes are offered.
If you don’t know how to swim, do an online search for “adult swim instructors” or “adult swim lessons” in your area or ask people you trust if they know of someone they can recommend.
If you’re concerned about pool safety, you can use a pool noodle, water wings or a floatation vest while you’re in the water. Water shoes might make your feet feel more comfortable while standing on the floor of the pool. They can also help prevent slips on wet surfaces around the pool and in the shower area.
As far as avoiding injuries like strains and sprains or exacerbating existing physical conditions you may have (for example, arthritis or sciatica), swimming and exercising in the pool are typically safer than many other types of exercise. We recommend asking your doctor about any concerns you may have.
You’ll find that many —but not all — retirement communities in California have a swimming pool.
Our sparkling new indoor pool at The Variel is set in a pristine environment filled with natural light. Residents can enjoy a convenient dip in the pool day or night, regardless of the season or the weather. And, there’s easy access to an outdoor deck for those who want to catch a few rays.
After seeing how much fun residents are having with their neighbors in our water aerobics classes, we’ll be adding more of these classes to the Zenergy Wellness Program schedule as our community continues to grow.
Other fitness options available as part of the Zenergy Wellness Program include a state-of-the-art wellness gym and a yoga studio.
If you’re curious, you can see a photo of our beautiful new pool and check out the other amenities at The Variel. Better yet, contact us and we’ll arrange for you to see our pool (and the rest of our community) in person!