“I ran three miles at the crack of dawn. I deserve this cookie.”
There is something entirely different, however, to be said about people who willingly plunge themselves into a pool twice weekly to do water aerobics, frigid winter weather and all.
The women in the deep water aerobics class at the Lakeshore Natatorium in Carrollton are in this latter group of early-morning exercisers, and they are having a blast.
Susan McKeeman, a retired elementary school teacher, started out in regular water aerobics, and then eventually switched to deep water because she wanted more of a challenge.
“I did one year in the shallow end, and a year now in the deep water,” she said. “This is so much better. It’s a lot more of a cardio workout. It makes me feel like I’m active and not like I’m retired, sitting at home on the couch.”
McKeeman also makes it a priority to stay active in other areas of her life.
“I horseback ride, so it keeps me pretty active,” she said. “I also have a puppy that keeps me really active. And I guess from teaching I was always on my feet anyway, so I needed to do something.”
But those who are not as active as McKeeman need not fear. It does not take an Olympian to handle the moves performed in the classes (which look quite fun, by the way). Any person of any fitness level can benefit from attending the classes.
There are two kinds of water aerobics classes offered at the pool: deep water and regular water aerobics. Both classes are offered weekday mornings. There are also night classes offered for regular water aerobics. Deep water — as the title of the class alludes — is in the deep end of the competition pool, while the regular aerobics is in the shallow end. However, there is no need to worry about the need to keep your head above the water in the deep end of the pool: all participants wear buoyancy belts.
Both women and men 18 years of age and older enjoy the benefits of this low-impact, communal workout.
Courtney Robinson, director of the Lakeshore pool, has attended both types of water aerobics and enjoys each of the classes.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s a good activity to start getting in shape with.”
Like McKeeman, Robinson agrees that the deep water is more intense, but also points out the fact that both deep water and shallow water aerobics are beneficial to one’s health.
“I think the main benefit would definitely be the cardio, because it’s a non-impact activity,” said Robinson of the health benefits. “Also, it builds muscle. With the morning and evening water aerobics they use water weights, and they’ll do different exercises with those. That helps build and maintain muscle. But I know one of the main reasons that people take it is because of the cardio.”
Water aerobics are particularly beneficial to older people.
“When people do get older, you can’t go outside and run like you used to when you were in your 20s, so it’s a good way to exercise,” Robinson said.
As a physical therapist from Southern Therapy Services in Carrollton, Lee Heath recognizes the many health benefits of water aerobics. She helps patients of various physical backgrounds work toward good health in a small, warm pool in Southern Therapy’s office. Although the patients that Heath assists have sports injuries or other physical difficulties, she points out that anyone can benefit from water exercise.
“The number one benefit is the buoyancy of the water,” she said. “If you’re in chest-high water, it’s taking away at least 60 percent of your body weight.”
This type of exercise is especially constructive for people who experience joint pain, including arthritis and other ailments.
“People who have joint pain do really well in the water because it’s taking a large percentage of body weight away,” Heath said. “They might not be able to walk very well on land because they have so much pain; or, if they’re extremely overweight, then there’s a lot of extra force on their joints. The buoyancy of the water allows people to do in the water what they wouldn’t be able to do on land.”
The term “hydrostatic” is used by Heath to explain what a health advantage it is to exercise in the water.
“It’s the compression of the water coming down on your body at all angles,” Heath said. “What it does is increase blood circulation back to your heart. It makes your heart work more effectively because the compression helps pump the blood back into your heart because of the pressure from the water.”
The physical therapist stressed that water exercise is not just for people of a more advanced age.
“Water sports are definitely the best form of exercise for older people,” Heath said. “But really, it’s the best exercise for most people because there’s not a lot of compressive force on your joints. In the water, you’re not breaking down your joints as much. It’s not just exercise for older people or people who are not conditioned.”
Regular water aerobics classes at Lakeshore meet September through February, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, from 8 to 8:45. There is also class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 6 to 7:30. Cost is $20 a month. Deep water aerobics meets on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 9 to 10, September through February. Cost is $30 a month.