Seniors can exercise at the YMCA

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2011

“When you retire, do not stay in bed in the morning, because you’ll fall apart,” recalls Genie Whiddon of her father’s advice. Genie definitely followed his advice with her volunteer service as a water aerobics instructor at the YMCA. Her day starts at 5 a.m., and after reading two papers and attending church at 7 a.m., she dons a bathing suit and leads the morning water aerobics class five days a week. Then, some days she’s back in the pool at 6 p.m. This routine started for Genie, a mother of 10, in 1991 and continues today, more than 20 years later. Genie, a young 88-year-old, certified to teach water aerobics, credits her active life, despite severe arthritis and limited motion in one arm, to her routine water aerobics and has over and over seen the benefits of water aerobics in others. “We do exercises for every muscle in the body except our faces but we talk and laugh enough to exercise those muscles,” Genie shared, during a recent visit. “We also form bonds and look after each other. When someone is not going to come to a class they usually tell us. So when someone does not show, we check on them to make sure they are OK.” Genie is not the oldest currently doing water aerobics at the Y on a regular basis. Madge White, a young 92-year-old, usually exercises at the Y four days a week. These seniors are sometimes joined by mothers-to-be who benefit greatly from the low-impact program. The program has most of the fat-burning and endurance-building qualities of land-based aerobics, without the high-impact pounding that can be dangerous while pregnant. Cardiovascular exercise, provided by the workouts, reduces the risk of circulatory problems such as heart disease. The resistance provided by the workouts helps maintain strength and stability in the muscles, preserving balance, range of motion and mobility. Traditional exercise choices, such as running or aerobics, can be hard on joints, whereas the buoyancy of water supports a portion of one’s weight, reducing the load on joints. The resistance of the water prevents joints from moving too quickly, which can prevent mild hyperextension and repetitive-stress injuries. Falling is a major concern for some, especially seniors, and can make many exercise options too risky. In the water, natural buoyancy helps keep you upright. Even if someone loses their balance and falls, they just splash gently into the water rather than falling to the floor. Genie shared a couple of other benefits from her daily dip in the pool: “I only take a bath at home two times a week, so I save on water and electricity! I shower every morning after class, as do many people who then put on makeup, fix their hair and then go about their day. “We have nice adult women’s and men’s locker rooms! There is a lifeguard on duty during each class, and if you need a bathing suit, I’ll order a great one for you (size 10 to 26). It’s a big pool and we have room for lots more — young and old! I love my ‘Y’! “whY not make it your Y, too!” Mike Haynes is the interim CEO of the Bainbridge-Decatur County YMCA. He can be reached at (229) 243-0508.