"We all decided that we needed to scale back, but we wanted to maintain our fitness," said Eskow who is 73. "My orthopedist recommended water exercise. I thought ‘Why not. I have a pool.’ So I invited our running group to join me.”
Eskow’s longtime friend Rita Hair has been a partner in fitness for more than 30 years. Even though the women live on opposite sides of the river they managed to run together once a week and have competed in multiple 5k and 10k races. Those sessions came to a halt after 72-year-old Hair’s physician encouraged her to stop.
“I developed arthritis in my lower spine and that really limited the exercise that I can do,” said Hair, who lives in McLean. “I’m not supposed to do anything that requires me to bend or twist, and of course running is out of the question. Our water workouts are perfect.”
Water also gives resistance, so you don’t need heavy weights in the water to perform strength exercises. Though staying active, particularly when done with a group is vital to both mental and physical health, it can become more difficult with limitations that often come with age, advises Helen King, MSW, Director, Arlington Agency on Aging. Water offers both aerobic and strength exercises simultaneously because it requires resistance, but not heavy weights.
"Water exercise provides a safe way to stay active and healthy without the added stress on joints," King said. “Some of the benefits are increased strength, balance and flexibility, which are important to reduce the risk of falls.”
Never having learned to swim, 67-year-old Bobbie McDaniel once avoided any exercise that required water. As a result, she turned down Eskow’s initial invitation. “I guess you could say that I was a landlubber, but most of what we do is in the shallow end of the pool,” said McDaniel. “I can stay there and get as much of a workout as some of the ladies who can swim laps.”
Eskow and her friends often have a post-workout coffee or lunch. These gatherings give the women a sense of a community. “This is a fun group,” she said. “We get together after our time in the water and talk about everything from the books we’re reading to the funny things that our grandchildren do.”
The emotional gains of the group are as important as those that are physical, advised King. “It’s also social and fun, which improves your sense of well-being,” she said.