Seniors participating in aqua aerobics class

Chesapeake Aqua Aerobics Students Splash into Health

Louise Marchello and Nancye Wilson have been coming to The Chesapeake’s pool for water aerobics for 16 years.

“We’re the longest members of this class,” said Louise. “And the oldest,” Nancye added.

Both women had taken aqua aerobics classes in the past and were excited the community both had a pool and a wellness program that allowed them to keep moving.

“This is one of my favorite activities. It’s a good exercise, and I’m just so graceful underwater. I do all kinds of things I can’t do on land,” Louise joked.

“By the time we’ve finished, we’ve exercised every muscle in our bodies,” said Nancye proudly. “The pool was closed for four months, and I was afraid I

wouldn’t be able to move if they didn’t open it soon.”

The pool was closed for renovations in the middle of 2021. In addition to resurfacing the pool area and refreshing the locker rooms, a new infrared sauna was installed, and a Himalayan salt relaxation room was built.

Of the new amenities, Roger Fuhrman said, “Pretty, pretty, pretty!” He and his wife moved to The Chesapeake one year ago and he has been attending the Aqua Aerobics class alongside Louise and Nancye ever since.

“You can tell we don’t have any fun,” he laughed.

The long-standing class meets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and draws a crowd of at least 15 residents each time. Aqua Ease, which is slower-paced and just 45 minutes long, meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fitness Director Candace Montgomery said the classes keep participants moving the whole time.

“First and foremost, expect to have fun but also expect to work hard,” she said. “We do cardio, we do balance, we do a range of motion. Realistically, someone who starts this class can expect to work every muscle group. The water sits at around 88 degrees, so there’s a therapeutic aspect of it because the warm water helps with arthritis and sore joints.”

Marie Biermann can attest to the benefits of the class. As a 10-year participant, she said her arthritis has improved. Candace said exercise can also allow residents to remain independ

ent longer. “My daughter told me I needed to stay fit by attending a water aerobics class, so when I got to The Chesapeake and found out they had the classes she insisted that I come. I’m so glad I did! If I miss one day, I can feel it. It’s really been a blessing to me,” Marie said.

Anne Gullen has a whole routine built around the wellness amenities. She starts out with around 10 minutes in the sauna followed by the class and rounded out by around 20 minutes in the salt room at least twice a week.

“I find exercising on land very hard on my body. Exercising in the water is a piece of cake,” she said. “The salt, I always touch it; it’s very relaxing. Sometimes I take my book in, turn the light on and read, sometimes someone else will be in there and we’ll just visit.”

Candace attributes the success of the class to the opportunity for social networking. Louise agreed. She said being around others is good for her physical and mental well-being.

“In general, most of us love riding the noodles. We used to sing all the time. It’s just fun; it’s just plain fun.”

“One time Candace was out for a few days and when she came back, we’d practiced a surprise with our noodles,” Roger said. “The first time we did it she just laughed and laughed!”

Sudi Stultz credited the instructor with the popularity of the class. She has been attending for nearly five years and she said in addition to her design skills—which are on display in the pool area—Candace is a “delightful young lady.”

“I enjoy Candace, she’s a marvelous instructor. She is the most thorough and caring,” Sudi said.

Candace said the class has certainly become like a family. She said class participants have developed friendships and she has a long-standing relationship with many of them as well.

“They have seen me grow at The Chesapeake. They ask about my son and my husband,” she said. “I’m happy when they’re happy. I feed off their energy, so when they’re having a good time, I’m having a good time.” The Chesapeake wellness program, Vibrance, in partnership with National Institute for Fitness and Sport Fitness Center Management (NIFS), is wide-ranging and has something for everyone. In addition to the pool classes, land-based classes are offered five days a week including stretching, strengthening, balance, yoga, seated dance and even a class that exercises the brain. Additionally, residents have access to ping-pong, shufflegolf and the onsite gym that is always open.

LifeSpire of Virginia began its relationship with NIFS in 2016 with team members at The Culpeper, The Glebe, Lakewood and, of course, The Chesapeake. NIFS has provided oversight in the development of fitness programming for more than 30 years. NIFS also provides complimentary services such as senior fitness evaluations and exercise prescriptions for residents to gauge their current fitness level and allow for greater insight into areas that need improvement.

This article was first published in LifeSpire of Virginia’s Community Matters magazine. Check out the rest of the e-book version online: