"I have known people who have said they couldn't even walk if they didn't do water aerobics," said Norma Tatum, one of the water aquatics instructors at the Sikeston YMCA.
The YMCA, in addition to the New Madrid County Health Department, offer the programs, in affiliation with the arthritis foundation of St. Francis Medical Center, to help ease the lives of those with arthritis.
"We do exercises to help you in an everyday activity routine so you can do common chores, like tying your shoes," said Christi Pipkin, certified aquatics instructor at the New Madrid County Health Department.
The programs are designed to relieve the pain and stiffness caused by arthritis, while providing a fun, social opportunity. While it is designed for those suffering from arthritis pains, people who have had knee surgeries or back problems also take the class to alleviate their pain.
"You have to have a physician's signature stating you do have arthritis," Pipkin said of the New Madrid County program. However, they haven't turned anyone away who hasn't met that requirement.
Tatum, who has back problems herself, said it was part of the reason she started participating in the program five years ago, after it was recommended by her chiropractor. "It's done real well - I haven't been back to the chiropractor since," she said. She has been leading a class for the past four years.
Several of the women in Pipkin's class have also noted a change in their range of motion since taking the class. "Some ladies really look forward to it - they don't schedule anything around it," she said of the five-week course offered each summer.
Water is easier on joints and muscles than standing on land, Pipkin said. "The goal is to do the exercises in the water to help relieve muscle pain," she added.
Most of the hour-long class is filled with exercise. "We try to exercise at least 45 minutes throughout that whole hour," Pipkin said. This includes basic exercises such as paddling and heel and toe raises, to more difficult exercises.
The class also sits in squatting position, does jumping jacks, and all sorts of other exercises. "It's things you can't normally do at our age with arthritis," Tatum said, adding the class is very rewarding. "It just really makes you feel good all over, because we exercise from head to toe - there's just not anything we don't work before we get out of the water."
Pipkin's class also focuses on the entire body, she said, adding that she starts at the head and travels down to the feet. "I try to do five or six exercises for each part of the body," she said. "Different exercises strengthen certain parts of the body."
Seniors don't have to be able to swim to take the class, the instructors noted. "It's all done in shallow water," Tatum said. However, they do need to be able to get in and out of the pool.
The Sikeston YMCA offers a water aquatics program year-round. A class is held at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Days Inn swimming pool, and the cost is $10 a month.
New Madrid County, on the other hand, holds their program, free of charge for all New Madrid County residents, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Portageville pool. The service is only offered for five weeks during the summer, since they don't have access to an indoor pool. "If we had an indoor pool, we'd try to do the service more," Pipkin said.
It is not too late for New Madrid county residents to register for the arthritis aquatic exercise program. Contact Pipkin at 573-748-5541 or 1-800-870
-5541 to receive the application and calendar. And those interested in the Sikeston program may register at any time by calling 472-9622.