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You're Never Too Old to Make Some Waves

Older adults who want to improve their health are turning to warm-water exercise. This form of exercise can ease joint pain and other aches.

Water is great for workouts because it reduces stress on the joints, says Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D.. Dr. Bryant is chief exercise specialist and a vice president at the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Water cuts your "weight" by as much as 90 percent. Exercising in water limits the pain you might feel working out on land.

The water also offers resistance to movement. This resistance can build muscle strength. Warm water also dilates blood vessels. This improves circulation and may improve heart health. Older adults who workout in water may regain muscle tone, increase endurance and regain the freedom of motion.

Many benefits

Exercise therapists use a wide range of water exercises to promote fitness and healing. People with arthritis, cystic fibrosis, spinal injuries or other health problems can benefit greatly from water therapy. The water is warmed to 89.6 to 97 degrees.

Most exercise therapists say there is almost no age limit when it comes to sensible water exercise. Water workouts can increase your range of motion regardless of your overall health.  

You don't need a private pool, special equipment or a personal trainer to make a splash. Membership at a pool can be reasonable and affordable.

Exercise specialists strongly urge you to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program. This is especially important if you have a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart problems. It's also important if you haven't exercised in a long time. As a rule, exercise specialists believe organized water workouts are safe. 

Where to start

If you'd like to take to the water, you'll find a lot of pools available to you. You can join your local YMCA, a health club or a senior citizen center. Water therapy can help you build strength, balance, flexibility and overall physical health.

The YMCA may be the best place to begin your search. If your YMCA doesn't have a pool, its staff members probably know where to find one. You can learn more about water exercise by calling the ACE at 800-825-3636.