SHERIDAN — Virginia Hawn can remember the joyful summer days when she was just 5 years old swimming in the various lakes of Michigan with family and friends, splashing and soaking up the sun, as so many children do today.
Fast forward 85 years, and you will find that the 90-year-old Sheridan resident continues to swim to this day, though maybe with less splashing, as often as she can near her residence on Pearl Lake.
What started as a fun way to splash and play with her relatives turned into a daily half-hour exercise routine that has Hawn up and active on a regular basis.
“I swim here once a day,” Hawn said. “I love to swim. It keeps you healthy, I’m 90 years old and I can do most anything. It keeps your weight down. I weigh the same now as I did when I graduated high school. It’s just good for you.”
Hawn said she quickly adapted a regular swimming routine at just 10 years old when she lived within walking distance of Lake Michigan in Grand Haven.
As soon as school would be done for the day, she would walk to the beach and enjoy a swim in the lake.
Today, Hawn still makes a daily trip to the beach, now at the Pearl Lake Beach.
“I swim every day from the beach for about a half hour,” she said. “I swim sidestroke most time. I’m not a form or speed swimmer.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hawn’s regular routine is indeed beneficial, especially at an older age.
According to the United States Census Bureau, swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the United Sates and a good way to get regular aerobic physical activity.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, two and a half hours per week of aerobic physical activity, such as swimming, can decrease the risk of chronic illness, something Hawn can attest to.
“I have no health problems,” she said. “I don’t even get tired when I’m swimming because if you want to rest, you can just roll over and float or change what side you are stroking with.”
Swimming recruits all the major muscle groups, including the shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips, helping to build strength.
Hawn says even in the winter months, she and several friends make a weekly trip to the pool at Montcalm Community College for recreational dip.
Hawn said she also continued to keep swimming because, as she aged, she was no longer able to run or jog.
“They always tell you, beyond a certain point you’d get a second wind, but I never did,” she said. “Swimming doesn’t put too much stress on me and I believe it’s the least damaging and most relaxing exercise you can do. You can’t turn an ankle while swimming.”
Hawn’s neighbors, Herald and Dorothy Springsteen, noticed Hawn’s daily routine and said it’s hard to believe she can keep up the regiment, having turned 90 just last week.
“She’s out there every day unless the weather is bad,” Dorothy Springsteen said. “It’s pretty incredible watching her. Her dedication and determination are impressive.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, water-based exercise can also improve mental health.
Swimming can improve mood in both men and women and decrease anxiety.
If your’e a beginner and are looking to create a swim routine, it’s recommended to start with a period of about 10 minutes then build up to a 30-minute workout, three to five times a week, as Hawn does. It’s also recommended to Include a warm-up and a cool-down, and, in the middle, to create a challenge by working on endurance, stroke efficiency, or speed.
For those who cannot swim, it’s recommended to use a floatable kick-board in shallow depths while supervised.
As far as equipment, a comfortable swimsuit and a pair of goggles are about all you need.
Hawn said she wishes she saw more people take to swimming as she has.
“There are aren’t many people that swim and I don’t know why,” she said. “That’s the nice part about swimming, anybody can do it. If you can just learn to relax in the water, the water will just hold you up. Just move your arms and legs once in a while.”