Contributed by Scott A. Sterling
October 4, 2016 is local Election Day in the Mat-Su Borough. A recreation bond, authorizing $22.16 million in improvements to borough pools, ice rinks and trails, will be on the ballot. Approval will pay for badly needed facility maintenance and improvements to the Wasilla and Palmer pools, the Brett Ice Arena and numerous borough trails. Simply stated, our sizzling growth is straining our aging recreation facilities to the breaking point. If we are to thrive and not merely survive, then we need (as a community) to vote for the bond.
For today, let’s look at the pools. Week nights at the Wasilla and Palmer pools are noisy and busy. There are lessons underway for kids of all ages, while parents and grandparents in the bleacher stand keep a watchful eye. In the diving well, elders tread and bob while gabbing away. In the lanes, the regulars burn through their lap routines. As lesson time winds down, the kids are set free to spend a few gleeful minutes using the diving board. In all, both pools draw across ages and generations to promote water safety, fitness and fun. For the money, the Wasilla and Palmer pools are one of the best family fitness bargains around.
Swimming gets the heart pumping. As aerobic fitness improves, so will overall flexibility. For kids, regular swimming helps reduce the risk of childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes. Another benefit is the increase in coordination and synchronization ability, which helps kids do well in other sports as well; such as soccer and basketball. Topping off is the fact that picking up and staying with swimming builds confidence, water safety awareness and motivation to achieve. For parents seeking healthy, low-impact activities for their kids, swimming is an ideal choice. And if starting out for fitness leads to determination to win an Olympic gold medal someday, then all the better. Standout champion swimmers like Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky got their start in the kiddie pool too.
What about aging boomers? Elders are big patrons of the valley’s pools. The good things about swimming are all the more important for folks age 50 and up. Water buoyancy just by itself is a huge plus, since it helps equalize weight and minimizes pain. Working both the upper and lower body allows for aging muscle groups to maintain tone and strength. The stronger the muscles, the better the ability to absorb glucose from the blood. And that helps reduce the occurrence or re-occurrence of diabetes. Add in the heart-healthy benefits of cardiovascular exercise and you have elders with fewer health problems, fewer health care costs and added longevity.
For many of us, hitting the pool is not as stressful as hitting the gym. Whether you are there for lap swim or water therapy, being in the water relaxes the body and calms the mind. You can paddle away for an hour in the deep end and somehow not get irritated when discussing politics with your fellow treaders. Or you can burn a mile’s worth of laps and just feel great. As the late Kurt Vonnegut Jr. noted, “It may be that on land I am just another person, but in the water I am beautiful.”
So, whether you’re the valley parent of a child taking swim lessons or an elder headed off for senior swim to work on flexibility, go vote on October 4th and support the recreation improvement bond. You will be doing good by doing well, for all of us.