Water exercises might just be the ticket to feeling better and losing weight

By Kristin O’Donnell

SHA resident

This was the year that my left knee decided to go on strike.

I can’t do the city hiking I love, including walking through different parks and neighborhoods, or taking the bus or a ferry to towns as far away as the Olympic Peninsula to walk and explore.

It’s painful walking through the grocery store, it’s painful walking around in my apartment, and it doesn’t feel great sitting still, either. I’m using a cane or walking poles to get around.

That’s because I have full-blown osteoarthritis of the knee. And because I’m getting so little physical activity, I’ve gained weight. Physical therapy, aspirin, ibuprofen and ice packs help the pain a little – but it pretty much always hurts—and the physical therapist cautioned me not to walk any more than I have to.

But I’ve been told to do plenty of stretching, and to hit the pool for water exercises.

So, a few months ago I headed off to the local community pool in Rainier Beach. Between water exercises I asked some of the other people in the class what brought them there.

“I meet nice people here.”

“I can dance in the water – and it doesn’t hurt my hip!”

“My doctor says I have to do this for my osteoarthritis.”

“The spa is a great reward after the workout!”

“I ate way too many cookies over the holidays – gotta get back in shape!”

And so on.

After the first class I asked Rainier Beach Pool Manager Ann Busch about the popularity of the water exercise program.

She said, “Water exercise offers much more than better balance or strength. It’s a kinder method to stay fit and is much easier on the joints because there’s less impact in the water. It offers a sense of community. And the rhythmic breathing? That’s prayer.”

It’s often hard for me, especially on days when it’s cold and rainy, to leave the warmth of my apartment and take two buses and the light rail to the Rainier Beach Pool. Yet I’m glad when I get there stretching and splashing and chatting with friends I’ve made at the pool, wading in the extra-warm, fast-running ‘lazy river’ pool, and soaking in the soothing spa.

This May, I’ll be having my knee replaced. It will, I hope, put me back in good walking order again—I’ll need a whole lot of water exercise to get there! But even after I’m walking easily again, I’ll still come to the pool, especially on cold, rainy days.

Seattle Parks and Recreation’s pools offer water exercise classes every day of the week at many times of day and night. They also offer many other options for water exercise and play, including lap, senior, family or public swimming, and water play with young children.

Women-only swims and swim lessons are available on Saturdays at Rainier Beach Pool and Sundays at Southwest Pool, and are a great option for women who, because of cultural, personal or religious reasons, cannot swim in a co-ed environment.“I was afraid of water,” Yesler Terrace resident Rahima said.”Now I’m learning to swim!”

More details on pool and Community Center locations and schedules for water exercise, swimming and swimming lessons are available online at http://www.seattle.gov/parks/find/swimming-lessons-and-classes.

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