Web Exclusive - February 2015
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Less Stress, More Fitness

Swimming Decreases Stress, Boosts Fitness As We Age

By Jeff Krieger

Over the past century, the average life span of people in industrialized countries increased by 30 years, which translates into the very strong possibility that baby boomers and the generations that follow can expect to live much longer lives than our parents and grandparents. If we mortal humans can avoid major health problems, serious accidents, war, the wrath of mother nature and find ways of staying fit, both mentally and physically, including eating healthy, reducing stress in our lives and taking advantage of fitness activities that provide the most benefits, while creating the least amount of physical stress on our bodies' infrastructure, many of us can also to enjoy a higher quality of life than our predecessors.

Although science and technology have combined to provide replacement parts for many critical parts of the body, a person's overall health and the duration of time that replacement parts remain functional still largely depend on that individual's fitness level and ability to consistently reduce the physical stress they place on themselves.

Fortunately, for those who are capable swimmers and who swim with an efficient stroke, swimming, along with several other aquatic activities, is the complete type of fitness activity that will provide the physical and emotional fitness that will enable senior citizens to not just live longer lives, but will help them achieve a higher quality of life as they age.

Unfortunately, a significant number of baby boomers and later generations will not be able to take advantage of this fitness activity due to their fear of water. That is the bad news, but the very good news is that this fear is not a life sentence. Anyone, regardless of their age, fitness level and life experience can overcome that fear and learn how to swim.

Overcoming this exaggerated fear requires a program that addresses the cognitive awareness of the fear, emotional support both in and out of the water with the use of counseling skills such as behavior modification, desensitization and relaxation techniques, in addition to aqua-phobic-specific water adjustment and traditional learn-to-swim and water safety skills.

Once a fearful swimmer has successfully overcome their fear of water, they can than effectively learn how to swim efficiently, along with other water safety skills that will enable them to develop aquatic skills that will enable them to use swimming as a vehicle to stay physically fit and mentally stimulated.

People are never too old to accomplish and even exceed aquatic goals that they never thought possible, which will enable them to live a longer and a more active and higher quality of life. Those individuals who, as a result of their overwhelming anxiety surrounding water, unfortunately have missed out on so many wonderful experiences with their own children in water, and may have even passed this fear onto their children, now can enjoy the water with their family and friends. Participating in aquatic activities most definitely expands their opportunities to establish new relationships with people of all ages who enjoy being in the water.

Jeff Krieger, MS, is CEO of WaterPhobias LLC, where he helps people overcome their fears and learn to enjoy aquatic activities. For more information, visit www.waterphobias.com.