Age Gracefully: Water Exercises for Seniors
Welcome to the world of water exercises, also known by the general name ‘aqua’. Aqua classes open up a world of enjoyment and healthy exercise for seniors who want to age gracefully. Senior activities are mainly dry activities, on land. In the water, a person feels entirely different. You can float and glide and not feel heavy or restricted as we do in a dry environment. You can feel graceful.
In a previous article on the benefits of swimming we discussed how swimming is so good for seniors. The different styles/stokes of swimming means that there is something for almost everyone. Some people do not enjoy swimming. Since seniors can benefit so much from being in the water, it is a shame not to find an alternative. So here goes.
The Good News about Exercising in Water
Here is some good news: Exercising in water has many benefits for the body and the emotions!
- Water aerobic provides the same benefits as swimming and as dry exercises, without stressing the joints.
- Exercise in general or in water helps reduce the risk of chronic illness such as arthritis or diabetes.
- Exercising increases the suppleness of the body and improves cardiovascular health and the condition of the respiratory system.
- Exercising in water is easier and more pain-free. It puts less stress on the joints while you’re exercising since the water provides support. Exercising in water provides a good combination of exercise without physical stress.
- You don’t need to know how to swim in order to take part in water exercises.
- Water exercises can relieve joint pain and arthritis symptoms.
- When a person exercises in water, they avoid falling over. The water provides support and resistance.
Why join a Water Class?
Exercise in a group. It is safer and you will have more fun that way. Being part of a group give a person the stamina to continue the class for the long term.
Perhaps the main reason for being part of an aqua class is that you don’t have to plan the exercises to do, just follow the instructor.
Practically speaking traveling to class together in a group is more enjoyable and can be more efficient.
Combining Pleasure with Leisure
If you need a swimsuit or trunks, go with a friend or family member for an enjoyable shopping trip to buy what you need. If you are part of a senior recreational craft class, maybe you will make your own personalized bag for your aqua gear. Remember, it needs to be big enough for a towel and bottle of water, as well as your cellphone.
Types of Classes
Look out for the following types of classes:
- Aqua aerobics, Waterobics, Water Aerobics, Aquatic Fitness, Aquafitness or Aquafit – exercises that are done in water that is usually waist deep, without swimming. Usually in a vertical position, often takes place in a swimming pool.
- Resistance class – water provides resistance, so, instead of lifting weights you can do simple exercises in the water and your body will have worked just the same amount.
- Relaxation class in water – now that sounds good! It is important to know how to relax as well as to exercise if someone wants to age gracefully. Loosen your muscles and ease joint pain with a relaxation class. It can reduce the stress hormones in the body.
- Aqua Yoga or Pilates – this can put a person in a better mood and provides most of the benefits as swimming does.
There are often aqua aerobics classes especially for seniors, where you can do aqua exercises such as walking, dancing and running in water. Some classes double the fun by adding familiar exercises such as jumping jacks to the routine. It is refreshing and enjoyable to do these same exercise in the water. It also might make you feel that you can age gracefully.
Classes usually last an hour, and should include a warm up and cooling down session at the beginning and end.
A Taste of Relaxation
Try this type of relaxation exercise in or out of the pool. If you are in the pool, make sure not to stand in someones lane when practicing relaxation.
The Mayo Clinic explains that Autogenic Relaxation is a type of relaxation where the material that will relax you comes from within you.
Lets try using a little visual imagery and body awareness to switch on the relaxation.
Enjoy this short relaxation exercise.
- Sit comfortably on a chair or stand somewhere safe in the pool.
- Imagine a peaceful setting, a beach with gently lapping waves or a forest with a gurgling stream.
- Breathe slow, controlled and relaxed breaths from deep by the stomach.
- Focus on either relaxing your body by relaxing the arms one by one, then the legs one by one and repeating.
- You could focus on slowing your heart rate as you imaging the slow, gentle waves or ripples or water.
- To come out of the relaxation state revert to breathing normally and stretch your arms up to the sky and bring them down to your sides.
Is This Good for Me? Where are My Flip Flops?
All this discussion about exercising and relaxation really makes me want to find a pool! Water exercises are good in the summer and the winter because the pool can be heated. If doing these activities in the winter make sure to dress very warmly on the way there and back and wear a hat. In the summer, it is hardly a question where people want to be on a hot day.
Classes for people with disabilities are also an option as there are many exercises that are good for people who have limited mobility.
Ask your doctor if your health plan or medication plan allows you to exercise in water.
In general, take the time to give your body what it needs for you to age gracefully. Activities such as water exercises or swimming provide many health benefits and are enjoyable for all seniors.
Photo by Patric Wong on Unsplash