Exercise For Life: Swimming

Taking a look at exercise options that won't cripple you - but will empower you into older age.

I am only 39 years old, but after a "good workout" my knees make me feel like I am 79 years old.  I have abused them for decades now.  Sometimes, they ache so badly that it hurts to walk.  It is not the “good pain” of muscles worked to exhaustion (I love that pain).  It is the pain of deterioration.  That is not good pain.  When they hurt, I avoid the gym instead of going consistently.  It is a bad cycle that many people experience.  

I adore the endorphins I get from a kickboxing or step & pump class, but if my hard core workouts result in a need for knee replacement surgery in my 40s or 50s , then I have, in my opinion, done myself a disservice.  I want to do the kind of exercise that will empower my body to continue to be active into old age.  So, I recently started taking note of the activities that I see elderly people successfully participating in. There are actually a lot of them.

For the next few weeks I am going to look at whole body workouts that give us all of the health benefits, minus the rapid deterioration that comes with high impact routines like running, step, kickboxing, and the like.

These longevity workouts include: swimming, chi gung (Qigong), biking, weight lifting (certain types), pilates, walking, and yoga. Though I just completed , I will do one more from a different angle. If you think of another workout that fits in this category, please write and let me know.  I will look into it!

As we enter the blistering heat of summer, let’s start with Swimming! 

Swimming is a fabulous exercise for just about anyone.  Our buoyancy makes water activity virtually impact free.  At the same time, the water itself provides resistance that makes our muscles work.  So if you are concerned about joint pain in your feet, knees, hips, or spine, a water aerobics class may be the perfect substitute for that kickboxing or step class. 

Local radio personality, .  When she started her exercise regime, time in the pool was essential.  As she dropped the pounds, she was able to add in time on the elyptical machine (a low impact cardio machine in most gyms).  

Doctors often prescribe water activity for an athletic injury, or for general fitness for those who need to improve their cardio fitness.  Water aerobics or straight forward swimming works just about every muscle in your body, and gives you a great workout for your heart and lungs.  So whether you’re fit and in your 20s, need to lose weight or want to stay active into your 80s, swimming is a fabulous option.

I had a great aunt who swam every single day until she died at 86 years old in her sleep.  She was fit and healthy enough to live in her own home until that day, and she attributed much of that to her swimming.   

Personally, I get bored swimming laps, just like I get bored running.  But, there are lots of ways to make swimming fun if you're not a 'laps person'.  Try doing a lap or two with a kickboard so that you just work your lower body.  Then try doing one with a ball between your ankles or knees so that you can focus on your upper body.  Or, skip the laps all together and just join up with the folks in the water aerobics classes.  As in any workout, it can be as easy or intense as you make it.  It all depends on you.

If you do not have your own pool, there are plenty of options here in Many-Rox.  The has a great indoor pool, and they offer a full schedule of aerobics classes, swim lesson classes, lap swim times, and ‘free swim’ times.   So does .  You can swim in these pools year-round.  We also have two outdoor, public pools open for summer: The Kendrick Recreation Center, and the Hillside Recreation Center. For the most part, they are used by campers and swim lessons during the morning and early afternoon hours, and are open for public use after 3 p.m.  But, you can view their contact information at the links provided, to call for exact hours every day.

So let me encourage you to put on a bathing suit and get swimming.  You may be intimidated to wear the bathing suit in public, but just remember – anyone who sees you in your suit does not have to walk in your body: you do!  So, if you want to exercise to get or stay healthy, then let them gawk.  You need to take care of your body so that you can use it as you age.  You don’t want to deteriorate.  You don’t want to be unable to play with your grandkids when you have them some day.  You want to feel good.  So enjoy a swim or some water aerobics.  Move around in a pool: it feels great!! 

Besides, it is a delightful way to cool off without spending money on air conditioning.  

Louise Fischer July 07, 2011 at 12:19 PM
Be sure to visit RowZone in Manayunk. Excellent instructors and amazing workout. I am 64 and have been doing this for two years. This is not an easy workout, but so worth the effort. They did more for me than the Rehab at U of P. I had a very painful frozen shoulder when I started at RowZone. Today I have full range of motion and no pain. This is a 45 minute class which incorporates core, weight training and rowing. The class members are anywhere from age 20-70.
Carol Haslam July 16, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Hey Louise, That's fantastic!! Rowing is a very effective, low impact exercise. If done with bad form, it can lead to shoulder and back issues. But done under supervision at a place like RowZone, you'll get all of the benefits and none of the damage! Keep an eye out for my upcoming article on Row-Zone! In fact, I may contact you for an interview or a picture ;-) CHEERS


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