Anita Reed, left, and Amy Martin lead the group of early morning water aerobics exercises at Paradise Mobile Home Park.
The pool at the Paradise Island Mobile Home Park in Largo doesn’t open to the public until 10 a.m.
New residents may be puzzled if they arrive for a swim early and find a group of people already in the pool. The group is welcoming, to be sure, but special. They gather at 8:30 a.m. for their daily water aerobics session and, on occasion, there are so many of them there just isn’t any room for the casual swimmer.
For more than 20 years, the group has gathered at the pool. Unless the weather gets too cold, they are there daily.
Anita Reed, 75, has been leading the group for 20 years.
“It originally was only three days a week,” she said. “Some people wanted it more often so someone else led them on the extra days. Then Amy (Martin) took it over.”
Martin, 66, leads the group during the winter months when Anita takes time off.
“As long as it is at least 52 degrees, we’ll go,” said Martin. “The water is always a nice temperature. The new solar piping is wonderful; the water is much better this year.”
Reed said winter is too cold for swimming.
“I just couldn’t do it in the winter; it is just too cold for me,” she said. “But they are going at it. They have good numbers showing up, especially on the days that are a little warmer.”
Reed said it doesn’t matter what time of the year a person participates, water aerobics are particularly suitable for older people.
“There is something there for every part of your body,” she said. “It is a low impact exercise, and I know a lot of people who have had hip or knee replacement surgery, and the doctors recommend exercising in the water.”
As a leader, she gets even more exercise than the others.
“When I’m counting and exercising at the same time, my lungs are getting a good workout,” she said. “You don’t realize how much it does for you. It isn’t that hard, and people can do just as much as they are able.”
Martin said she couldn’t imagine not having the water aerobics to go to.
“For me, it has become an addiction,” she said. “I love to get in the water and move my body. I have a bad knee – a lot of us have bad knees – and most people just can’t wait to get into the water and stretch their bodies.”
Martin said everybody in the park is welcome to come out and join in, and no one needs to worry about getting over-taxed.
“You do it to the best of your ability,” she said. “We usually count 10 reps for each exercise, but if you can’t do 10, do seven or eight. It makes you feel good when you can move your body and don’t have it hurting.”
Most of the people who show up every morning are women, but there are men from time to time. Edgar Doiron, 65, is a winter resident of the park and he shows up every day.
“I’m here for the exercise,” he said. “If it doesn’t bother the ladies that I’m here, then it doesn’t bother me.”
Doiron and his wife, Cecile, who joins him every morning, are from Cape Bald, New Brunswick. Back home, he exercises regularly, he said.
“I cycle, I walk, and if it is raining, I exercise in the house,” he said. “I like this. It is fun. It is different.”
Then he added a note of caution: “If you don’t exercise you pay the price later on.”
The group working out in the morning is a group of happy, smiling people. They attribute that to both the exercise and the atmosphere.
“It is like a social hour,” said Martin. “I consider my class to be social. We celebrate birthdays, and we sing, and we welcome any jokes that someone has to tell.”
In addition to the chatter, Reed said the exercise also contributes to what makes people so happy.
“It keeps you limber; it keeps your joints moving. It does give you an extra shot of energy to start the day off and most people say it makes their day go better,” she said. “It is good for older people to enjoy. You just have to get up and put on your suit.”