Culver City Observer -

Stay Heart Healthy At The Plunge


February 12, 2015

When Jerome Smith, 71, was in college, he admired the guys on the swim team.

"They seemed to be the happiest and healthiest guys on campus," he said. The team at his small college had a no-cut policy, so he joined, even though he did not have much experience.

He ended up quitting, but had no idea how much the sport would affect him later in life.

Smith started swimming again to honor a bucket list he made in his 50s. But a 2009 heart attack set him back. Now, he hits the pool every day with Southern California Aquatics (SCAQ) and says his heart has never been better.

"It's the best exercise in the world. The high after swimming is incomparable. That feeling carries over into my work. I approach it with much more enthusiasm," Smith, an arborist, said.

SCAQ holds workouts all over the LA area, including one at Culver City Municipal Plunge.

According to cardiologist Robert Merz, who works at Pacific Heart Institute, coronary disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Regular aerobic exercise is a big step towards prevention, as well as a healthful diet and abstaining from smoking.

Merz said swimming is an exercise people can continue into mid-adulthood and beyond, unlike injury-prone sports such as football and basketball. It is also an alternative for those who have joint problems from other activities such as jogging or riding a bike.

Louis Carter, 77, is another who reaped the health benefits of swimming at a later age.

"I wasn't feeling well. I was eating too much. I had sleep apnea, and I ran off the road a few times," he said. "I damn near killed myself."

After his doctor said he needed an exercise plan Carter hired a coach to teach him how to swim. He was in his sixties.

He improved so much that the coach recommended he join a group workout. He started swimming with SCAQ in 1996. In 2009, he set a US Masters world record in the 400 medley freestyle relay with his teammates, 18 months after a knee surgery.

"Swimming has awakened in me that I'm extraordinarily competitive," Carter said. "If you had asked me 5-10 years ago, I would have said that I was very easygoing."

So whether you are seven or 77 years old, swimming has positive health benefits at any age. Not only does it improve the health of people with heart diseases, but it can help with arthritis, diabetes and mental clarity as well. As Louis Carter says, "it makes me feel very alive."

Find a SCAQ workout near you at: and sign up for a free trial


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