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Come On In, the Water’s Great Exercise

June 22, 2019

Another Way for week of June 21, 2019

Come On In, the Water’s Great Exercise

The VMRC pool offers weekly family hours, with several free passes for family members, which we used in the past before I became a member. Here are several of my children and grandchildren, with me over to the right. (The only pool pictures I have.)

Of all the things I ever imagined happening in retirement, I never thought I would go regularly to a wellness center with a pool.

Some background: over the years we both have enjoyed family vacations with water—especially the beach, rivers, lakes (not many of these) and motels with pools. But my husband was not an avid swimmer: he could paddle around, but that was about it. He enjoyed water activities like boating, floating, canoeing, fishing, and riding ocean waves with a small surfboard—but never was one to swim much. After driving to a destination, he was usually ready to just flop on the bed and sleep. And then the children or I would coax him saying, “Come swim with us.” They loved horseplay with him in the water and building castles in the sand. I loved the water but hated, hated getting ready for it: putting on swimsuits, lotion, and organizing all the paraphernalia always required when a family went swimming.

But ever since my husband retired several years ago and sought assessment from an orthopedic surgeon for the stiffness in his feet and ankles—and difficulty walking, the doctor prescribed physical therapy. We went to the closest therapist at a nearby retirement center. That helped him a lot. Eventually the therapist suggested Stuart could save money (after reaching the limit on my insurance) by joining the pool and continuing some exercises in the water. At first he thought, “You’ve got to be kidding! Me, swimming?” But he respected her judgment and began, cautiously. It wasn’t long before he could see and feel real improvement doing the water exercises they recommended. These last couple years he has experienced far less swelling in his feet and ankles. He also developed enjoyable friendships at the pool.

So, you guessed it: getting me to join him in the pool was high on his priority list for what he hoped to do with me in retirement. By this time, I knew how it had benefited him, but was less sure of what physical benefit it would be to me. Oh, I enjoyed the water and the exercise and the movement and yes, relaxing in the hot tub. But my exercise of choice was walking. I hated the rigamarole of putting on the suit, trying to get out of it when it is wet, drying the hair, changing clothes, all that—still a chore even if I’m not herding three little girls.

After about six weeks, I realized I wasn’t having as much back pain when trying to turn over while sleeping. I had also changed my medicine for osteoporosis—due to going on Medicare. Long story short, I also met new people, made some new friends who have coffee together after their Friday water class, and was enjoying myself much more than I thought I would.

I realize this is a luxury for most of the world. In fact, the pool manager, a native of Guatemala, was reminding us of just what a luxury it is in his country. Only the country’s extremely small upper crust would ever be able to have access to an indoor heated pool and hot tub. Our opportunities here for people of average means are almost unimaginable.

Water can be fun for young and old alike.

One of the things that I like about going to the pool—or at least it is good for me—is seeing women my age and older not being embarrassed by their bodies. We have endured, persisted, survived. Recently I learned one couple at the pool was celebrating their 71st wedding anniversary. At ages 91 and 94, they are remarkable. The husband in particular has amazing tenacity in keeping up with the water movements called out by the instructor. Inspiring indeed!

As with most information of this nature—don’t begin new exercises or try anything without checking with your doctor or physical therapist. Stuart followed careful directions to be on the safe side. But it’s fun to “bicycle” around in the water using a swim noodle, checking in with new friends to pass the time. Soon an hour of exercise has passed! Have a safe summer.

What’s your favorite go-to exercise? What is at the bottom of your list? I’d love to hear your opinions, experiences, stories!


For more ideas of how various exercises can be done in the water, check here:

If you live in our area and are over 50, check out Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community Wellness Center. 

(P.S. VMRC is NOT just for Mennonites, in case you wondered.)

Comments here or Email me at


Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. Like you, walking is my favorite exercise. I too don’t like the rigamarole of putting on a suit and all that that entails to get into the water.

    I don’t have to go to a gym to enjoy swimming. Our neighborhood has a pool and playground. But do I go? – no! I have yet to take dip this year. With temps in the 90s most days, ’tis a pity. It’s the rigamarole, of course.

    You are fortunate that your hubby pushes you to go to the pool. Exercise is always easier with a buddy. That’s why I enjoy going to Pilates.

  2. Yes, it is great to have someone to serve in an encouraging role! He does try to let me do my own thing and is getting used to the separate priorities I have! His cousin’s wife once told us, after she retired first, that she had her friends she saw at the gym, and then often coffee afterwords, and she didn’t want to give that up, so they had to readjust to what each one wanted on their paths through the days and weeks. 🙂 You know all this! Thanks for your faithful reads and comments.

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