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Keep ‘Em Moving, Challenged and Having Effective Fun 


Author By Bonnie Koenigsknecht


 “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Proverbs 17:22


Our exercise classes, especially those for seniors and individuals dealing with chronic health issues, can benefit from a good dose of Proverbs’ merriness.  In recent Leader Tools, I shared ideas for bringing joy to our classes as well as the benefits of laughter and singing.  Here are a few more suggestions to add laughter and challenge to our workouts.

For deep-water classes, how about a flip-over exercise in the spirit of interval training with an optional element of competition? First begin with a few breaststrokes. Then, keeping the body in alignment, turn over and begin moving the arms and legs in the opposite direction, that is, toward the center of the body. After a few of these strokes, turn over again. For an interval training twist, cue increased speed every few “flips” and then go back to regular speed. To add a competition aspect, encourage a particular person or a group by saying something like, “Wow, Charlene, you are really doing well!” Praise someone, and many will try harder.

For deep or shallow water, here’s a fun and functional core exercise using noodles. In deep water (with participants wearing a flotation belt), have participants stand with both feet on one noodle (being sure the thickness of the noodle is appropriate for each person). With backs straight, bend the knees and bring them up toward the chest and then straighten to return to start position. If this is too easy, stand on two noodles. Let buoyancy do its thing! If shallow water is more suitable for your group, this exercise can also be done by pushing the noodles down to the pool bottom. To work on balance, walk (from the hip, more like a waddle) forward and backward, turn around, etc.  People often lose their balance and the noodles pop up, so instruct participants to move away from each other to avoid person-noodle collisions.

Here is a game from Sue’s​ Fun Friday​. A store such as Dollar Tree probably has inexpensive tubular squirt guns; the facility usually has medium-sized inflatable bouncy balls. This is a relay game,  with teams of two. Using lane lines or lines on the floor of the pool, set up an area with two sides and a line lengthwise down the middle of space. Team members stand opposite each other about six feet apart (lane line running down the middle).  The first team member uses only the tubular squirt guns to get the balls to the middle (i.e. the lane line): NO HANDS ALLOWED. Then, the second person has more choices – such as blowing on the ball, making waves to move it …anything but physical contact – to get the ball back to the first team member.  Winner is first team to get the ball out to the middle and then back to the start point the fastest.

Fun is an important component of fitness – we are more likely to continue with something that we enjoy!  Give your classes a dose of merriness with their exercise.



Currently Bonnie leads exercises in both shallow and deep water at Lyons YMCA in Cincinnati, Ohio.  In 2005, she discovered the value of physical conditioning and strengthening for later knee replacements through water exercise.  She found interactions and friendships among the participants to be a joyful part of the therapy.  After retiring from teaching (High School to Grade 2 through the years), she became both Arthritis and AEA certified. 

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