Exercise for seniors has many benefits

Warren Hitchcock was once named Mr. San Diego.
Warren Hitchcock was once named Mr. San Diego.

GULFPORT -- For more than 70 years, Warren Hitchcock of Gulfport hit the gym several times a week. A former Mr. San Diego, Hitchcock was a bodybuilder who worked out alongside weightlifting giants such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jack Lalanne.

"I really started concentrating on exercising and weightlifting when I was in Hawaii during World War II," Hitchcock said. "It was something that I loved to do.

"I never thought I was the best at it, but I was pretty good."

Hitchcock, 95, said he continued his almost daily workout routine until he was 90.

"I was still cut," he said, "and I was the same size I was at the height of my weightlifting days. I loved working out."

After he turned 90, Hitchcock said health problems have slowed his workout routines. But exercising is still something to which he looks forward.

"I still exercise when I can," he said. "I can't do what I used to, but I belong to a gym in Gulfport, and I still enjoy exercising."

Seniors and exercising

Exercising can be very important for seniors, as experts say there are plenty of health benefits from regular physical activity.

According to the National Institute on Aging, regular exercise can decrease the risk of developing some diseases and disabilities that affect many seniors. The NIA claims regular exercise can decrease the risks of heart disease and it can also be helpful to people with high blood pressure, diabetes and trouble walking.

The NIA recommends seniors attempt four types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility to receive the maximum benefits.

Low impact water aerobics

While there are several exercising options on the Coast, from gyms to community centers, the Salvation Army offers a water aerobic class for seniors that creates a low impact on the joints.

"Water aerobics is a great exercise for cardio and strength training," Erin Dache, Salvation Army director of operations said. "It's so easy on the joints."

Dache said water aerobics is ideal for people who have trouble walking on land.

"Seniors are attempting to get away from arthritis and joint pain and the buoyancy of the water really helps that."

While some seniors may be apprehensive about water aerobics, Dashe said it is both safe and accessible.

"It is very easy to get into our pool and there is no ladder," she said. "It also does not involve any swimming. The deepest the water gets is four feet deep."

For more information on water aerobics, call 374-8301.