The water exercise program at Pleasanton's Dolores Bengtson Aquatic Center offers a range of personal benefits for the senior participants who make up a majority of the classes.
Water exercise comes in a variety of forms, such as water yoga, water pilates and the ever-popular water aerobics, which provides a chance to work out with the support and resistance of the water in both the shallow and deep pools.
"This doesn't look like much of a workout, but because (ours) is in the deep water and it's forcing you to stand up straight, you're actually working your core. The water is supportive and it keeps them active to the point that they can stay active for the rest of their life and that's really important," participant Patricia Haller told the Weekly.
Different courses at the Pleasanton city pool are broken up between 6:15-9:40 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as an evening class from 5:30-6:25 p.m. from Mondays through Thursdays. These late afternoon classes are the only ones where an instructor is available, while participants in the morning must take these courses into their own hands.
"As an aquatics professional paying attention to what COVID-19 had done with the aquatics industry across board in the country, we're suffering from staff shortages, and water aerobics is just one of those (programs) where because it's an emerging industry, it doesn't have any real permanence yet," senior recreation program specialist Dan Ngo said. "Us losing three instructors all at once was surprising, but was there anything we could do about it? Probably not."
While a lack of instructors for water exercise may seem daunting, frequent members of the program, majority being senior women, are taking the situation in stride by following specific movements and supporting one another throughout the entirety of the lesson.
Haller said having no instructor "is a real challenge because it helps to have someone who can tell you what you're doing, who can let you know if the movements you're doing are wrong and you can hurt yourself, and who can remind people to keep moving. I look forward to getting back to where we have instructors for at least two full morning classes."
The water aerobics program has always generated a supportive and social community, but now that restrictions have lessened at the aquatic center, the connections and friendships are vital, as is the exercise portion of the course.
"If anything, last year I think it really showed us how important our connections are. I can't imagine how difficult it was for this community, specifically this (senior) audience, for three or so months to have to self-isolate for their own safety," Ngo said. "The moment they were able to come back, they really relished it and missed this. Whether we were offering an instructor or not, they were just glad to be back here."
No matter what type of water exercise is done at the aquatic center, it is a chance for anyone to join a welcoming community that works together to enhance their health.
"I love losing gravity for a little while because the water is so supportive and there's no pressure on your feet and all of those things," Haller said. "I love coming here and seeing these ladies. And I love the otter -- a stretch move that we do where you move your feet in circles and it's a very playful move -- the names of some of the moves are really cute."