CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Before most of us wake up, 95-year-old Thomas Heath is already wading in the water.
It’s an unspoken rule at the Martin Luther King Jr. Pool on Jackson Street — lane one belongs to Heath.
Growing up in Jamaica, Heath developed a unique swimming style. “We didn’t have coaches and instructors and all that,” Heath explained. “I used to watch the frogs swimming in the pond… That was my only coaching. I learned to swim that way, and that’s the only way I swim.”
Unconventional, but effective, Heath credits his daily swims with keeping him moving on land as he gets older.
For Ron Faretra, moving in the water is easier than moving on land.
He was diagnosed with ALS, which makes it nearly impossible for him to walk without assistance. But in the water, he says his bones and muscles are unburdened by gravity.
Dr. Keith Merrill, an orthopedic surgeon, also swims at Martin Luther King Jr. pool. He says that Heath and Faretra aren’t alone — water aerobics and therapy are hard to beat.
“There are no disadvantages to being in the water for therapy, rehabilitation, [or] exercise.”
Kathleen Wilson, a hall-of-fame swimmer and founder of Swim Calm, which teaches adults of fears with water how to swim, agrees.
“I wish physicians recommended water therapy more than they do… I wish I heard more often ‘it would pay to get in the water and work with somebody in the water.'”
Personally, I know firsthand the benefits that swim rehabilitation can have. Last year, after diagnoses of of neurofibromatosis (tumors on the spine) and neurosarcoidosis (spinal cord inflammation), I underwent spinal surgery. I had to relearn how to do basic things like walk, and struggled with strength and balance. Swimming helped me get back on my feet again.
Whatever your reason — health, rehab, friendship — swimming can improve the way you live.