OCEAN PARK - The pool building is hot and sticky, the thermometer registering 90-degrees, with humidity that makes your clothes magnetize to your skin. But the dozen or so ladies in the Dunes Bible Camp pool for their daily swim don't seem to mind. No, they probably feel just about right, swimming in the relaxing water.
Aquatic exercise has long been thought of as some of the best you can do for yourself. For one thing, it's low impact - due to its natural viscosity and hydrostatic pressure, water provides built-in progression since greater effort meets greater resistance. It is also becoming more popular as well - it is estimated that there are now over 10 million people enrolled in aquatic exercise programs in America, an increase of 6 million since 1990.
Another benefit for some who may have a harder time exercising - you're weightless underwater.
Swim With Inspiration Motivation (SWIM), is a class designed for women size 1X or larger. The class focuses on aquatic movement for weight loss, strength and stretching.
"It feels very good when you exercise (in the pool). It makes you feel much better in the morning or afternoon," said Andrea Macilko, who has been attending the class.
Instructor Bev Champers leads the group through a bevy of exercises twice a week, the group moving together at some points resembling a synchronized swimming team with arms and feet all moving simultaneously.
Aquatic rehab is the preferred therapy for many orthopedic injuries, ideal for hip and knee replacements. Buoyancy has been proven to take the stress off joints, providing a safer medium for rehab and exercise.
"This helps," said Adeline Jacobs. "With arthritis it doesn't hurt."
Jacobs said that many of the women who attend the class have problems with arthritis and find the aquatic movements soothing.
Perhaps the biggest reason that the women who attend the class ended up in the pool is the atmosphere that hangs like a cloud of steam above the water. The class is Christian-centered, which offers a sense of trust and acceptance for the members.
"Becasue it's Christian-centered, and it's for larger ladies like ourselves - large and lovely - we decided to take a chance." said Marion O'Donnell, who said she has also learned a lot about nutrition.
The group opens each class with a prayer together in the water before getting underway. For O'Donnell, the spiritual side of things has gone a long way to inspiring her in her endeavors.
"Regardless of what we look like or how we feel at the time, God loves us, and He wants the best for us," she said. "He wants us to exercise and get our bodies back to being healthy."
At the same time, it also gives some of the ladies something they can be proud of.
"It's really giving us our life back," said O'Donnell. "We start to feel important. We all have put ourselves second, and for the first time, we're putting ourselves first."
An orientation meeting for the start of the next SWIM sessions will be held Monday, June 21, 7 p.m., at the Dunes pool. Class size is limted, so it is encouraged that people pre-register. Cost is $40 for six weeks, featuring 12 lessons. For more info, call the Dunes pool, 665-5542.