The Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Kettles VA Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan has been home to one of the Veterans Affairs Gerofit programs since 2018.
Gerofit programs across the country provide free in-person and virtual exercise opportunities for veterans who are 65 years of age and older. Gerofit exercise classes and individualized workouts focus on cardiovascular, strength, balance, and flexibility training, all customized to Veterans’ unique needs and fitness levels. This summer, the VA Ann Arbor Gerofit program, in collaboration with the City of Ann Arbor, began offering the very first Gerofit aquatic fitness class!
The Gerofit aquatic fitness class incorporates cardiovascular, strength, and balance training, just as its on-site and virtual counterparts do, but veterans are quick to note the decreased stress of water- versus land-based exercises on the body. Vietnam veteran David Zimmer of Chelsea, Michigan emphasized this: “It is still exercising, but with less impact on the old body and joints.” For many, this translates into decreased pain levels while participating in exercises, allowing them to increase their exercise intensity.
The new dynamic of doing workouts at the pool has also led to better veteran interaction and camaraderie. increasing to pre-COVID levels. Veterans are able to laugh, share stories and enjoy group exercise. Vietnam and Iraq-era Army veteran Ed Groom of Saline, Michigan states: “As a Veteran attending GEROFIT exercise classes for several years, adding the pool has brought a new dimension…and had a huge impact in helping Veterans socialize while improving their overall health in mind and body.” Mr. Zimmer elaborated: “It offers the extra enjoyment of being able to interact personally with other fellow veterans. It’s a fun class that I look forward to attending each week.”
The aquatic fitness class is currently being held at an outdoor pool owned by the City of Ann Arbor, which donated a swim lane for 1-hour each week. Gerofit staff hope to continue this collaboration with the City of Ann Arbor after the summer season is over, moving the class into an indoor pool.
Veterans who are 65 and older and interested in participating may contact Katie Althuis via phone at (734) 998-9897, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or they may discuss with their primary care provider.