It’s a few minutes before 7 a.m., and the sun is rising outside when 94-year-old Jay Rentzel guides his lanky frame down the ladder into the York YMCA natatorium. The 85-degree water welcomes him to the start of another day.

The familiar greeting brings a smile to Rentzel’s face as he takes his position along the wall in lane six. Over the next few minutes, he’s joined by four other seniors, ranging in age from 73 to 91.

With lap swimmers churning the water in lanes one through four, Rentzel begins the water aerobics exercise class with a series of leg kicks.

Rentzel has led the Monday-through-Friday class, which varies from four to 10 participants, as a volunteer for more than 30 years.

“We’re in constant motion for the full hour,” says Rentzel, who drives 8 miles from his home in Manchester to the York YMCA. “We don’t rest in between exercises.”

Janice Vaughn, 73, of Dallastown, says, “Jay’s commitment is amazing. And, his vitality and enthusiasm are impressive. He keeps us moving the entire time.”

Rose Smith, 91, of York, adds: “Jay does a great job of leading the group. He’s a motivational instructor.”

The class consists of 32 exercises, including walking around the pool (forward, backward, and sideways), flutter kicks, side bends, running in place, arm circles, pushups against the wall, and more.

Rentzel, a 50-year member of the York YMCA, enjoys starting the day with exercise.

“It helps me physically and mentally,” he says. “I’m much more productive during the day because of it.”

He says water aerobics improves his flexibility and increases his strength and endurance.

“If I didn’t exercise, I wouldn’t be able to be as active as I am,” he says.

Rentzel’s sentiments are shared by other class members.

“I look forward to the class,” says Jim Fink, 87, of Manchester Township. “It gets me going in the morning. The class helps increase my leg strength.”

“The class has definitely improved my flexibility,” offers Vaughn, who suffers from arthritis. “I feel much stiffer on days I don’t attend.”

Her husband, Patrick, believes the 7 a.m. routine helped him recover more rapidly from a recent fall.

According to the national YMCA, regular participation in water aerobics can improve heart health and cardiovascular strength. The water’s pressure helps circulate the blood in your body more efficiently.

As your heart continues beating and pumping with less strain and pressure over time, you effectively lower your risk of heart disease. Water exercises have been shown to help lower high blood pressure.

Exercising in the water is a great way to burn calories and better tone your muscles. The natural buoyancy of water creates a sense of weightlessness, reducing the impact typically experienced during a more traditional workout. Water exercises are ideal for those who suffer from joint pain or other degenerative body conditions.

Besides the physical benefits of the class, there’s a palpable camaraderie.

“It’s more fun to exercise with others,” says Vaughn. “It motivates you more. You get to know the people in the class.”

But Smith says it’s no social hour.

“You’re constantly moving,” she stresses. “The focus is on exercise. There’s time to talk afterward.”

When Rentzel retired from Hajoca, a wholesale plumbing and heating distributor, in 1991, he vowed to keep busy. He has kept that pledge.

He has always been athletic. Rentzel played baseball and soccer in high school and played basketball for the Manchester Athletic Association.

Besides his daily water aerobics, Rentzel participates in three golf leagues and bowls in a senior league. He plays in a nine-hole league every other Thursday and a nine-hole league once a month.

Every Wednesday, he tees off in an 18-hole league.

“I can shoot my age,” says Rentzel, proudly. “I really enjoy being on the golf course.”

When Rentzel isn’t golfing, you can find him at the bowling center. He bowls in a league from late August through mid-April and averages around 150.

A lifelong baseball fan, Rentzel follows the Baltimore Orioles. He has been treasurer of the Old Timers Association of the Central York County Baseball League since 1986.

Rentzel’s advice to other seniors is it’s never too late to start exercising.

“If you start exercising, you won’t be sorry,” he says. “It makes you feel good, and you’ll want to keep doing it. Exercise can be very infectious. There are a lot of exercises you can easily do in the water that you might have trouble doing out of it. Water aerobics helps alleviate aches and pains.”

Rentzel doesn’t have any plans to stop leading the water aerobics class, playing golf, or bowling.

“I’ll do everything as long as I can,” he says.

As the class winds down, Rentzel leads the participants in the traditional finale.

“I feel great. I feel great. I feel great. I feel fantastic,” the group shouts in unison.

It’s a fitting end to a productive hour. With that, class members scatter from the pool, ready for another day.

Have questions?

We are just a click away!