Physical fitness plays a part in your fiscal fitness

I didn’t think you could sweat in a swimming pool.

“You’re at 50 percent, now push it to 80 percent,” my water fitness instructor yells over the blaring music. The tempo is about to increase. Those of us in the class prepare for what’s next with groans.

“Take it to 100 percent,” shouts Trevin Green, water fitness coordinator at the Theresa Banks Memorial Aquatics Center in Maryland. He’s on the pool deck demonstrating how fast he wants us to go on our Hydrorider aqua bikes.

Water splashes as we all try to pedal faster, going nowhere but burning hundreds of calories. It’s hard and exhilarating — and I’m breaking a sweat.

I had been taking aqua aerobic classes for some time, but as I was looking through my county’s parks and recreation catalog for fitness classes, I saw they had underwater cycling. I signed up immediately. I had tried a regular cycling class once, but my knees just couldn’t take it.

Then I saw an “aqua pole” class. I signed up for that too. And before you go there, I’m not planning a second career. There’s nothing seedy about this aquatic exercise in which you use a vertical steel pole with a base to build upper body strength by using your body and the water as resistance. It helps tone your abdominal muscles, shoulders, legs and backside. I’m hoping the pole class will also help improve my balance.

What does this all have to do with personal finance, you might be wondering?

Your health can impact your wealth. Too many Americans and their children are suffering from preventable diseases and paying the price for not taking better care of themselves.

Nearly 48 percent of obese boys and 36 percent of obese girls misperceive their weight as normal, according to a newly released survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. About 81 percent of overweight boys and 71 percent of overweight girls thought that they were about the right weight.

“Childhood obesity is a major public health problem associated with many adverse health outcomes in adulthood,” the CDC report said.

There is so much emphasis on people’s financial well-being, and this is good. You have to save and many of you need to be saving more than you are now. But don’t just focus on your financial needs. Think about your physical well-being too.

Let’s just look at diabetes. More than 29 million people — about 1 in every 11 in the U.S. — have diabetes, according to report out of the CDC released last month. And about 1 in 4 of those with diabetes don’t even know they have it. Diabetics have an increased risk of serious health issues, including vision loss, heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.

The CDC also found 86 million adults have blood-sugar levels high enough to be classified as pre-diabetic. Without making some changes in their lifestyle — exercising and a better diet — 15 percent to 30 percent of these folks will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

“Keeping healthy indirectly improves your finances by reducing health care costs,” Green said. “Increases in oxygenated blood throughout your body help with mental focus.”

In 2012, diabetes and its related complications accounted for $245 billion in total medical costs and lost work and wages, up from $174 billion in 2007, according to the CDC. The medical costs for people with diabetes are twice as high as people without the disease, according to the center.

I’m telling you about my aquatic classes because I know that for some of you, exercise can be hard on your joints. It is for me in part because I have arthritis. But I’ve found I can do more and push myself harder in the water.

“Aquatics fitness decreases joint pressure and increases mobility,” Green said.

And don’t think aqua classes aren’t strenuous or challenging. You can burn anywhere from 200 to 1,000 calories depending on the aquatics fitness program you choose, he said.

I’m not just preaching to you about this issue. I’m telling myself the same thing. I’ve put on weight. I don’t eat as healthy as I should. I wasn’t exercising enough. I had to make changes.

At the end of every aqua spin class, Green calls us into a circle in the shallow end of the pool. We raise our aching arms and repeat something he learned from a former football coach: “One team, with one goal to win. Let’s get it done. Let’s get it done.”

One goal. Become financially and physically fit. Get it done.

Michelle Singletary: michelle.singletary@washpost.com.

(c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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