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.

Tamera Manzanares/Courtesy

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.

Aging Well: Taking fitness from land to water


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 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.

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.

"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.


rhammel 8 years, 10 months ago

Fitness is aquired as a function of elevated heart rate for a period of time. I will use my workouts as an example. I am a 73 year old male. I workout 5 times a week, weather permitting. I use a road bicycle as a means to elevate my heart rate (HR). My workouts range from 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.

I use an Internet coaching program ( that lays out my workouts for me. The very first thing my coach has me do is a field test to determine my working maximum HR. It is a 3 mile course done at 90-95 rpm pedal cadence, in both directions. From the data that I record, my coach can determine what intensity my heart can endure. The 220 minus your age is not accurate and can cause some real problems.

A typical workout will be an hour and one half moderate ride with a pedal cadence of 80-100 rpm, with an HR from 60-120 beats per minute (do not use this parameter, as it may cause severe problems). During this ride, I may be asked to do some added tasks, such as climbing repeats, ie, going up an incline for a specified period of time. After the climb will be a recovery period and then I climb again. The coach will have be do a variety of tasks over the period of a month. I wear a HR monitor and record such things as intensity and average heart rate.

I have been on this program for five years. I have had a total hip replacement 10 years ago and a total knee replacement a year ago. The program keeps my arthritis a bay and my weight under control. Each year, my riding gets better and stronger. I am climbing hills today that were out of reach a year ago. As an indicator, I check my HR before I get out of bed. It ranges from 50 to 55 beats per minute. Resting HR that low indicates very good fitness.

I hope that this comment will give some other senior some hope in more intense physical fitness. But do be careful. Many doctors are reluctant in suggesting such heavy physical training that I do. The above is what I do, not what I recommend that you should do.



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