Talking about going down to the pool can conjure up childhood memories of bright, humid summer days spent splashing with friends, testing one’s bravery on the diving board and water slides, and floating without a care in the world until the sun began to go down. 

While swimming continues to hold the same carefree appeal for children today as those of yesteryear, it is also a popular activity among adults of all ages, including seniors – and for good reason. 

Whether one is taking part in a pool-based exercise class or simply completing a series of laps, swimming offers an effective way to achieve the recommended weekly amount of physical activity for optimal health while minimizing the impact on muscles and joints. Fun fact: swimming can burn more calories per hour than running or biking! Spending time in water can also confer numerous other mental and physical health benefits, such as decreasing anxiety and depression, increasing strength and flexibility, and boosting sleep quality and lung capacity. Water-based group exercise classes, like those offered by the Elmhurst Park District and Lombard Park District, also offer opportunities for social connections and new friendships.

Along with numerous other venues and activities nationwide, many public pools are beginning to reopen, offering a convenient and affordable way to engage in this rewarding activity. Local options include the Elmhurst Park District’s two aquatics facilities and the Lombard Park District’s Paradise Bay, both of which offer senior discounts. State-of-the-art aquatics facilities are also among the numerous amenities found at Lexington Squares in Elmhurst and Lombard – which the daughter of one resident couple recently noted was among the many reasons her parents chose the vibrant retirement community. Lexington Square Lombard recently celebrated the renovation and grand reopening of their pool with a splash! 

While swimming is a spectacular recreational pastime, it also carries a long-standing competitive tradition. 

Not only was swimming – which first surfaced as a competitive sport in England in the early 1800s – featured in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, it is one of only four events to have been a part of every subsequent Olympics, with women’s races making their appearance in 1912. The current all-time record holder is the United States’ own Michael Phelps, with 23 gold medals – and 28 medals total – earned over four consecutive Games appearances. While Phelps is retired and will not be among the competitors at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which kick off July 24 after being postponed for a year, the United States still offers a significant pool of talent to watch.  

Artistic swimming, formerly known as synchronized swimming, made its debut as an Olympic sport at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, having first appeared as a demonstration event. This intense but graceful athletic endeavor – which was widely referred to at the time as water ballet – gained immense popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. Contributing to this phenomenon was a series of movies known as aqua musicals, in which ensembles featuring well-known stars like Esther Williams – a champion swimmer recruited by MGM – performed athletic, elaborately choreographed routines. 

Feeling inspired to challenge yourself in a national competition? While the Olympic Games are generally geared towards younger competitors, the National Senior Games offers an opportunity for athletes over the age of 50 to test their mettle while vying for medals, and 2021 is a qualifying year. Registration for qualifying events in Illinois for the 2022 National Senior Games – including swimming, bocce, table tennis and golf – begins in August, with most qualifying events taking place in September. 

Those looking for another way to break records with their pool-going experience may want to check out the current international gold medal holders for pool size. The San Alfonso del Mar resort near Santiago, Chile, boasts the largest pool, with a 20-acre facility about the length of 16 football fields, while the world’s deepest dive pool just opened in Dubai with a depth of 196 feet – and an underwater city to explore.  

While checking out the world’s largest pools may be ideas to float as part of an adventurous sightseeing itinerary, there’s certainly no need to have that much space to enjoy the numerous mental, physical and social benefits of swimming – so why not dive right in? The water’s fine!  

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