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Synchronized swimming is the exercise of choice for New York seniors

July 10, 2012

Social sports have become a common part of senior living, but one group of older adults in New York City is doing things a bit differently. They're known as the Harlem Honeys and Bears, and they are the only synchronized swimming team in Manhattan created exclusively for adults over 50, The Associated Press reports.

The team is made up of 41 area residents who range in age from 62 to 100. Despite the fact some of the participants suffer from physical limitations, they still make their way to the pool. Among the longest-tenured members is Lettice Graham, who has been with the team more than 25 years. At 90, he says the exercise has helped him stay healthy later in life.

"It's the best exercise in the world," Graham told the AP. "It keeps me out of the doctor's office."

The team dates back to 1979, and has grown considerably since then. It was originally home to around 12 members, but now the 40-plus participants know dozens of routines and are certainly reaping the benefits of an active retirement.

While seniors don't necessarily have to participate in synchronized swimming, getting in the water offers a number of advantages for older adults. Like most exercises, activities such as swimming and aqua aerobics improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles and can slow down muscle loss related to age. Additionally, it may lessen pain for older adults who have joint problems.

"Over a period of time, people see things like a decrease in pain, improved daily function, and improved perceived quality of life," health educator Shannon Whetstone Mescher told WebMD.

Whatever route seniors choose, it's hard to deny the important role exercise plays in healthy senior living. In fact, researchers from Rush University Medical Center found seniors who are active exhibited a lower risk of dying over the course of a four-year study than those who were more sedentary.