Jump In! Seniors Who Swim Enjoy Many Benefits

A swimming pool was the veritable fountain of youth for the seniors in 1985’s fantasy flick, “Cocoon.” Of course, in the real world, a dip in the pool cannot make you younger. However, when it comes to improving your vigor, swimming delivers hosts of benefits that can make you feel like you have rolled back time.

Why swim? Diane Menges, the Community Wellness Coordinator at Judson, shares more.

“Though exercising in the water is generally more of a low-impact form of exercise, it can be done at high, low, or no impact (lap swimming), and is therefore ideal for people of any age or fitness level,” Diane explains. “Water rushes also around the body during water exercise; acting to some degree as hydro-massage, which may help improve circulation in addition to being soothing to joints and muscles.”

That last point is of special interest to seniors with arthritis, which the CDC estimates affects nearly half of the population 65 and older. Because water’s buoyancy helps support our body weight, our joints experience less stress in the pool. As a result, water exercise can deliver significant improvements in range of motion, making movements possible  – like leg lifts, say – that couldn’t be accomplished on land. “People with hip or knee replacements, or with back issues find great benefit and often pain relief (even if temporary) from exercising in the water,” Diane says. “Many Physical Therapists use pools because of the various ways they can work with their clients in the water.

Heated to a soothing 88 degrees, the warm-water pools at Judson Park and South Franklin Circle provide an array of activities for members of the Judson community, including lap swimming, classes in water aerobics and power walking, sessions specifically aimed at alleviating arthritis pain, one-on-one programming and physical therapy. “The pools at Judson Park and South Franklin Circle are ideal for older adults with arthritis or other physical limitations. The warm temperature is soothing to the joints, and improves overall mobility and flexibility,” says Diane.

But what about that other common condition, osteoporosis? Researchers had long suspected that, as a non-weight-bearing activity, water exercise could do little to fight loss of bone density. However, recent studies have shown that while swimming might not directly add to bone density, it does build muscle mass. Increased muscle mass improves both balance and strength, and together, that helps prevent falls. “The natural resistance of the water, when exercising, improves strength,” Diane explains.

Because falls are the most common cause of broken bones among seniors, swimming becomes a direct contributor to the ultimate goal of treating osteoporosis: preventing fractures.

While the physical benefits are impressive, consider this: Swimming is a wonderful way to improve one’s sense of well-being. From reducing pain to enhancing a sense of vigor, water exercise can provide a profound boost to mental health. Add to that the chance to meet others during water classes, and swimming becomes a great way to make new friends within the community. Next time you are looking to exercise, make sure to turn to the pool and enjoy the bounty of benefits that you will gain!

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