Wellness Wednesday: What Water Exercise Can Do For You

Water saved my life

On Christmas Eve 2019, I wrote that water keeps saving my life. My work as an instructor of aquatic exercise had me fit enough to survive a ruptured arterial aneurysm and six weeks in an Amsterdam ICU in May of 2019, and I recovered the ability to move in water long before I could replicate those moves on land as my recovery continued back home in Florida.

Boynton Inlet, Palm Beach County, Florida

Today, I’ve tapped into two friends who are water fitness instructors — Janet Weisenford, who teaches at the Boca Raton YMCA, and Marlo Scott of First Class Fitness and Wellness — to help explore why water is such a great environment to exercise in, and what specific moves are the most useful.

Water gave a runner new legs

I discovered the wonderful magic of water fitness after being a distance runner for many years. I suffered from arthritis and needed to find another way to keep physically and mentally fit. At my massage therapist’s suggestion, I decided to check out aquatic exercise.

Janet Weisenford, Aquatics Exercise Association certified instructor at the Boca Raton YMCA

The water fitness class she took opened a new chapter for Janet Weisenford, a long-time teaching buddy. She discovered that she could get a great total body workout — cardio, strength training, and flexibility. Janet was so captivated that she became a certified instructor through the Aquatics Exercise Association, where she learned more about the water and its properties. Here is what Janet says about why water is such a great exercise medium:

  • Water’s buoyancy cushions our joints, allowing former runners like myself to run in the water with minimal impact.
  • The water also offers resistance, not only building muscle but also building or maintaining bone density.
  • Water workouts can also improve flexibility. The reduced effects of gravity allow you to move through a greater range of motion.

Flexibility, Janet says, is important for doing everyday activities, especially as we age, and it is often a component of fitness that is overlooked.

I can attest to that. There is nowhere better to stretch than in a pool, supported by the water.

Water exercises for core

As I learned during my recovery, core muscles bear the burden of holding us upright, ready for life. So focussing on these torso workhorses is an excellent idea. I asked Marlo Scott, with whom I’ve published posts on posture and on weight loss, for her favorite core exercises.

Core is a no-brainer: The plank, the push-up, and the bicycle.

Marlo Scott of First Class Fitness and Wellness

Notice how the old-fashioned sit-ups aren’t on Marlo’s list? The bicycle works not only the mid-section abdominals but also the obliques, back muscles, gluteus and hips while improving coordination, stability, and flexibility. The plank and push-ups add work for the chest, back, and arm muscles.

In the water, I love cross country skiing and then anything that involves a twist — even better, a twist with a noodle. I also think pull ups at the pool’s edge are fantastic. And front and rear leg kicks (as in doing the backstroke and the crawl) are great, too.

Marlo Scott of First Class Fitness and Wellness
Jane Kelly Amerson Lopez pool demonstration: jogging, plank, bicycle.

Try it for yourself

If you haven’t tried a class or a water workout at home, please do! I am sure that you will become a fan!

Janet Weisenford, Aquatics Exercise Association certified instructor at the Boca Raton YMCA
Marlo Scott jumping for the joy in her new water exercise gear!

Water Wisdom

A pool just worked its magic again, connecting me with people who I didn’t know I needed to know.

As you may remember from a recent post, I met a water exercise teacher on Christmas Eve who teaches from the same playbook as I did. She encouraged me to write an article about how much water fitness impacted my survival and recovery from a serious illness last year, and I’ve just submitted it to the Aquatic Exercise Association, which certified both of us. I now look forward to Marcy’s class every week, thrilled to be a healthy student!

Marcy and me after one of her classes

The other reason that connecting with Marcy was a remarkable coincidence is that her husband is a vascular surgeon familiar with arterial aneurysms. He has the expertise that dcotors used to save my life in Amsterdam and to monitor my recovery in Florida (thank you Shands Hospital in Gainesville, about 5 hours north), only he is just 20 minutes down the road from my home in South Florida. Jack Zelzter is at JFK Medical Center. Marcy urged me to contact her husband.

Dr. Zelzter and I exchanged emails — “Be glad to help if I can,” he said — and I put off doing anything else for a while. Then, my husband reminded me that taking care of my health should be my number one concern (as compared with editing my Foreign Service memoir like a fiend for the past month) and so I called Dr. Zeltzer’s office last week to make an appointment. One last hurdle — they need my pertinent medical records faxed first. I pulled my copies and prepared to send them over today, after a swim at gym on my way.

The pool at my gym

There were a couple of people doing laps when I got to the pool. Getting a lane isn’t usually a problem — the concern I have is that I’ll pick an hour when no one is swimming. One reason I swim at the gym instead of in the community pool in my neighborhood is that I am finally smart enough, and old enough, to heed the advice to never swim alone. Oh, and I’ve promised my husband, too, that if there’s no one in the pool I’ll keep upright and do a water workout. But it’s not the same as the Zen of a lovely long swim.

The pool aboard the Holland America Nieuw Statendam in April 2019

So I took the empty lane and pushed off. Eventually, my strokes became smooth, my breath took over, and the water slipped by like silk. About a half hour later, I pulled off my googles.

The woman swimming in the next lane was finishing up, as well. She was a good enough swimmer to have mastered the flip, something I never did, and I liked the variety of her workout. So, I told her so, and we started to chat while we stretched in the water. One thing led to another, and another amazing coincidence emerged.

Maureen is a nurse at JFK Medical Center who has worked with and admired Dr. Zeltzer for years. “You’d be in excellent hands,” she said, when I told her my story. So, another testimonial, and another Locker Room Lady friend with whom I’ve exchanged phone numbers. I faxed over my records and will call tomorrow to make an appointment.

I can’t go wrong. There’s too much going right.