Aging Well: Taking fitness from land to water |

Aging Well: Taking fitness from land to water

Tamera Manzanares

Dee Hines uses hand buoys to help build strength during a water fitness class at Old Town Hot Springs. Water exercise provides cardio and strength training that is easy on sensitive joints and injuries.

Most of the time, exercise makes us feel good. Other times, exercise can be more painful than pleasing.

Adults of all ages, and particularly those age 50 and older, are finding that exercising in water helps increase the longevity of their joints while providing similar health benefits as other exercise.

Like land exercise, water fitness offers many different types of opportunities fitting participants’ goals from high energy workouts to gentle soothing regimens aimed at reducing arthritic pain and stiffness.

“I just think the benefits are so great,” said Peggy Van Vliet, a water fitness instructor at Old Town Hot Springs.

Water resistance, known as hydrostatic pressure, makes moving in water more strenuous than on land. The addition of equipment and vigorous movement can help participants tailor their exercise intensity, making it comparable to activities they might do on land, but because heart rates are lower in water, they may feel less exertion.

As participants get their hearts pumping and tone muscles, the water’s buoyancy helps protect their joints from the shocking impacts they may experience during land exercise.

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“Our joints, especially as we get older, need that rest,” Van Vliet said.

Dee Hines of Steamboat Springs began taking water aerobics classes more than 10 years ago to help ease strain associated with a pinched nerve in her spine. She’s found that combining two to three days of water fitness with land exercise has been an effective fitness routine.

“I couldn’t do land five or six days a week. : The combination of two days a week doing something like that, and then the water exercise, really works for me,” said Hines, who even packs webbed water gloves and ankle cuffs to perform her routine during vacations.

“Every morning, I’m out there early before anyone is up. : I’ve been doing it so long that I do it on my own a lot,” she said.

Water exercise is ideal as part of a cross-training routine that includes a variety of activities, including weight-bearing exercise, which is important in maintaining healthy bones and building muscle, Van Vliet said.

“You want to keep your muscles guessing,” she said.

The therapeutic qualities of water are an important aspect of water fitness, especially for those with arthritis, injuries and other conditions limiting movements.

Instructors such as Van Vliet include modifications to accommodate participants’ levels. Senior-specific water fitness classes sometimes are held in warmer water and typically include more strength and balance work and less cardio activity.

More than 20 years ago, the Arthritis Foundation developed a class of gentle water exercises aimed at relieving pain and stiffness related to arthritis. Since its inception, the program, which includes exercises that strengthen muscles and improve participants range of motion, has been shown to significantly reduce participants’ pain and improve their sense of well-being.

Mary Naylor of Craig decided to join Aging Well’s Arthritis Foundation Aquatics class in Craig last year to see if she might learn more exercises to help ease her arthritis. Naylor has slept better and experienced less joint stiffness since starting the class, which she takes in addition to Senior Swimnastics offered by Craig Parks and Recreation. She also enjoys the social time with other participants.

“I can do (water exercise) for a longer time than other exercise. : I can go for an hour whereas I would only be able to do (other activities) for 15 minutes or less at a time,” Naylor said.

Arthritis Foundation Aquatics, offered through the Aging Well program, is back in session in Craig at the American Legion. Additional classes are pending for fall at Old Town Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs.

This article includes information from “Benefits of Water Exercise” at

Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and better. For more information, log onto or call 871-7676.

Water fitness classes

Steamboat Springs:

Old Town Hot Springs

– Senior Water Exercise is from 7:15 to 8:15 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

– Water Aerobics is from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Classes are free for members and $12 for nonmembers. Pre-sign up for classes (must be day of the class) is recommended. For more information, call 879-1828 or log onto http://www.steamboathots…

Arthritis Foundation Aquatics classes tentatively are scheduled to begin in the fall at Old Town Hot Springs. To include your name on a waiting list for more information, call 871-7676.


– Arthritis Foundation Aquatics, offered by the Aging Well program, is from 9 to 10 a.m. Mondays at the American Legion pool. Participants must be age 50 or older and pay a $3.50 pool fee. For more information, call 871-7676.

– Senior Swimnastics, offered by Craig Parks and Recreation, is from 9 to 10 a.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at the American Legion pool. The class is free to participants age 55 and older, but a $3.50 pool fee applies. For more information, call 824-3015.

– Water Aerobics is from noon to 1 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through Aug. 14 at the Craig Swimming Complex. The drop in fee is $3. For more information, call 824-3015.