For Mike Chizda, it was supposed to be another day at the local YMCA.
He arrived at his usual time on Tuesday for his morning swim, but the staff and members of the YMCA had bigger plans in mind for the quiet Pictou County man who will be celebrating his 102nd birthday today.
His walker was decorated with balloons when he stopped to take his shoes off and, as he entered the pool deck, members taking part in their own activities in the pool stopped and sang Happy Birthday followed by a round of applause.
Chizda took it all in stride, parking his walker at the side of the deck, making his way carefully to the steps with the aid of his caretaker Samone Gallant and heading directly to mix with a group of woman in the shallow pool with a smile of appreciation on his face.
“Mike has been coming for the last number of years,” said Heidi Sinclair, membership services and communications manager for the YMCA of Pictou County. “He comes and swims a couple of days a week and always comes to the seniors swim. We really love seeing him because it shows that swimming and having a routine like that is important for everybody, but especially when you are 102.”
She said Chizda is the oldest member of the YMCA who swims at the facility. He used to swim almost every day but now comes regularly two days a week.
“He is 102 so he has cut back some,” said Sinclair.
On this day, the water is a bit cool for his liking, but she said he is a fan of the hot tub and will make his way over to that side of the aquatic centre before leaving.
“He spends a little bit of time in the hot tub but not too long, but I would say that is his favourite spot,” said Sinclair.
She said he likes to socialize while in the pool area and with YMCA staff as well.
“Samone has told us this is his outing,” Sinclair said. “This is where he gets out of the house, and coming in past the desk and all of us saying hello to him and then when he gets in the pool, our members say hi, you can tell by the emotions on his face that he is really enjoying himself. This is a big part of his day.”
Mike Thompson, aquatics director for the YMCA of Pictou County, said there has been a “seniors movement” in terms of older people realizing the benefits of water exercise.
“Many seniors, are finding that getting into the water is an excellent way to improve their overall wellbeing, while getting relief from symptoms associated with senior health conditions such as arthritis, joint issues, circulatory problems as well as physiotherapy for post-opt and pre-opt surgery,’ he said.
He said the therapeutic pool is kept at temperature of 88C and it ranges in the depth from one foot to about three and a half feet at the deepest part. The Lazy River, which is the only one in Nova Scotia, aids in stretching muscles and strengthens the muscles which is beneficial to many senior as part of their physio. The YMCA also encourages physiotherapists to come to the facility to work out a program with their clients so they can continue after their physio sessions are finished.
Thompson said the 25-metre pool is kept at a cool 82C and is good for swimmers and people who want a deep pool workout. Two lanes are always open unless they have rentals. The hot tub is large enough to accommodate 10 to 15 people.
The benefits of exercising in water
While weight loss and cardiovascular exercise are common benefits of any type of exercise, moving while partially or fully submerged in water offers some distinct advantages that set this exercise apart from land-based activity. The buoyancy factor makes swimming and water exercise among the most injury-free sports, thus a good choice for seniors.
What water workouts can do for seniors
Socializing is an often forgotten, but integral benefit of many types of physical activity, and aquatic exercise is no exception. The opportunities to socialize during a water workout are practically endless. Group exercise classes provide an ideal opportunity to gab, and even lap swimming can be made conversation friendly.
Check with the doctor before diving in
Although there are many advantages to working out in the water, for anyone considering starting a new aquatic exercise regimen it is always recommended to consult their doctor first.
For further information and to learn more about what the YMCA of Pictou County offers, call 902-752-0202 or visit www.pcymca.ca